External anal sphincter hyperreflexia following spinal transection in the rat

Gregory M. Holmes, Richard C. Rogers, Jacqueline C. Bresnahan, Michael S. Beattie

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36 Scopus citations


In the present study, long-term and short-term rat preparations were used to develop a model for investigating external anal sphincter (EAS) reflexes in intact and spinal cord-injured (SCI) rats. In this model, EAS distension with an external probe elicits reflex contractions of the EAS in intact, unanesthetized animals. At 2 h after spinal cord transection, none of the lesioned animals displayed EAS EMG activity. In fact, once distended, the EAS was incapable of maintaining closure of the anal orifice. Over a period of 4 days, spinalized animals developed a hyperreflexia of the EAS response. By 48 h, the rectified, integrated EAS EMG was significantly elevated in comparison with nonlesioned controls (EAS hyperreflexia). In addition, the duration of the EAS EMG bursts in response to sphincter distension had significantly increased. At 6 weeks after injury, the EAS was significantly hyperreflexic as measured by EMG burst duration and burst area. As with intact animals, posttransection EAS reflexes were highly anesthesia sensitive. These studies indicate that (1) brief distension of the anal orifice is sufficient to evoke a physiologically relevant reflexive activation of the EAS in the rat, (2) the 2- to 24-h postinjury areflexia observed in these experiments may be a suitable model for the study of spinal shock, and (3) the observed EAS hyperreflexia after chronic SCI may represent the permanent effects of removing descending inhibitory circuits and segmental plasticity, making this reflex an appropriate measure of defecatory dysfunction after spinal cord injury.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)451-457
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Neurotrauma
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1998

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Neurology


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