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, 42 (3), 225-42

Axonal Change in Minor Head Injury

Axonal Change in Minor Head Injury

J T Povlishock et al. J Neuropathol Exp Neurol.


Anterograde axonal transport of horseradish peroxidase (HRP) in selected cerebral and cerebellar efferents was studied in cats subjected to minor head injury. After trauma, the animals were allowed to survive from one to 24 hours, when they were perfused with aldehydes and processed for the light and electron microscopic visualization of the peroxidase reaction product. By light microscopy, the brain injury elicited an initial intra-axonal peroxidase pooling. With longer post-traumatic survival, HRP pooling increased in size, demonstrated frequent lobulation, and ultimately formed large ball- or club-like swellings which suggested frank axonal separation from the distal axonal segment. Ultrastructural examination revealed that the initial intra-axonal peroxidase pooling was associated with organelle accumulation which occurred without any other form of axonal change or related parenchymal or vascular damage. This accumulation of organelles increased with time and was associated with conspicuous axonal swelling. Ultimately these organelle-laden swellings lost continuity with the distal axonal segment and the axonal swelling was either completely invested by a thin myelin sheath or protruded without myelin investment into the brain parenchyma. This study suggests that axonal change is a consistent feature of minor head injury. Since these axonal changes occurred without any evidence of focal parenchymal or vascular damage, minor brain injury may ultimately disrupt axons without physically shearing or tearing them.

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