Human radicular veins regulation of venous reflux in the absence of valves: regulation of venous reflux in the absence of valves

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In the literature it is generally assumed that venous reflux within the radicular veins is prevented by the presence of bicuspid valves and narrowing of the transdural part of these vessels. Recently, we performed a human cadaver study of the internal vertebral venous plexus. Surprisingly, a large number of radicular and perimedullary veins appeared to be filled with Araldite CY 221 mixture, after injection of this material into the vertebral venous system, implicating reflux via the radicular veins and suggesting insufficiency of the presumed anti-reflux mechanism. Therefore, it was decided to study the radicular veins in order to determine and to investigate the presence or absence of anti-reflux mechanisms within this system. The vertebral venous systems of ten fresh human cadavers, between 64 and 93 years of age, were injected with Araldite CY 221 mixture. After polymerization, all cadavers were dissected and the spinal nerve sheaths, including nerve roots, radicular veins and epidural veins, were excised as a whole. After macroscopical examination, serial sections (40 microm) were cut on a freezing microtome and stained in Von Gieson medium. Every third section was stained immunohistochemically with smooth muscle antigen (SMA), to visualize smooth muscle cells. In all cadavers, a number of intradural radicular veins was filled with Araldite. Employing microscopical examination, no bicuspid valves were found. However, four structures were encountered that might serve as ananti-reflux-mechanism: 1) intravenous dural folds, 2) meandrous configuration, and 3) narrowing of the radicular veins at the point of penetration of the dura mater, and 4) varying numbers of smooth muscle fibers in the walls of the intradural and extradural parts of the radicular veins. Reflux via the radicular veins seems to be a physiological phenomenon. Structural valves have not been encountered during this study. Intravenous dural folds, meandrous configuration and narrowing of the transdural part of the radicular veins, and the presence of large numbers of smooth muscle cells in the radicular venous walls suggest the existence of a dynamic reflux-regulating system that has the ability to increase the intravascular resistance under conditions of venous hyperpression, in order to protect the spinal cord from venous pressure waves. Possibly, venous reflux via the radicular veins has a role in selective cooling of the spinal cord.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-80
Number of pages8
JournalThe Anatomical Record
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 1999


  • Actins/analysis
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal/chemistry
  • Muscle, Smooth/chemistry
  • Myelin Sheath
  • Regional Blood Flow
  • Spinal Nerve Roots/blood supply
  • Spinal Nerves/blood supply
  • Spine/blood supply
  • Veins/anatomy & histology

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