Role of glycemia in acute spinal cord injury. Data from a rat experimental model and clinical experience

Francesco Sala, Gaetano Menna, Albino Bricolo, Wise Young

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24 Scopus citations


While experimental and clinical evidence indicates that in brain injury blood glucose increases with injury severity and hyperglycemia worsens neurological outcome, the role of blood glucose in secondary mechanisms of neuronal damage after acute spinal cord injury has not yet been investigated. Data from spinal cord ischemia models suggests a deleterious effect of hyperglycemia, likely due to enhanced lactic acidosis, which is primarily dependent on the amount of glucose available to be metabolized. The purpose of this study is to summarize preliminary experimental and clinical observations on the role of blood glucose in acute spinal cord injury. Between 1995 and 1996 we used the New York University (NYU) rat spinal cord injury model to test the following hypotheses: 1) Blood glucose levels increase with injury severity. 2) Fasting protects from hyperglycemia and prevents secondary damage to the spinal cord. 3) Postinjury-induced hyperglycemia (dextrose 5% 2 gm/Kg) enhances spinal lesion volume. From a clinical perspective, we reviewed blood glucose records of 47 patients admitted to the Department of Neurosurgery in Verona, between 1991 and 1995, within 24 hours of acute spinal cord injury in order to determine: a) the incidence of hyperglycemia (> 140 mg/dl); b) the correlation between blood glucose and injury severity; and c) the role of methylprednisolone in affecting blood glucose. Results indicate that in a graded spinal cord injury model: 1) Early after injury, more severe contusions support significantly higher blood glucose levels. 2) Fasting overnight does not directly affect spinal cord lesion volume but influences blood gases, and we observed that a slightly systemic acidosis plays a minor neuroprotective role. Fasting also ensures more consistent normoglycemic baseline blood glucose values. 3) Postinjury-induced moderate hyperglycemia (160-190 mg/dl) does not significantly affect spinal cord injury. In the clinical study, we observed that during the first 24 hours after spinal cord injury: a) Glycemia ranges between 90 and 243 mg/dl (mean value 143 mg/dl), and close to 50% of the patients present blood glucose values higher than normal. b) Methylprednisolone administration is not associated to significantly higher blood glucose levels. c) There is a trend for larger glucose rises with more severe injury.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)133-154
Number of pages22
JournalAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
StatePublished - Jan 1 1999

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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