Efficacy of methylprednisolone therapy for the injured rat spinal cord

Alexander G. Rabchevsky, Isabella Fugaccia, Patrick G. Sullivan, Deborah A. Blades, Stephen W. Scheff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

99 Scopus citations


Currently the synthetic glucocorticosteroid methylprednisolone sodium succinate (MPSS) is the standard therapy after acute spinal cord injury (SCI) in humans based on reported neurological improvements. The mechanisms for its beneficial actions are not entirely clear, but experimental evidence suggests MPSS affords some degree of neuroprotection. As many studies with rat models of SCI have been unable to demonstrate improved behavioral outcome or tissue sparing after MPSS treatment, we chose to stereologically assess whether it alters lesion volume and tissue sparing over time, as well as long-term behavioral recovery. Adult rats subjected to contusion SCI with the NYU impactor were administered either MPSS or saline for 24 hr beginning 5 min post injury. Over time the lesion dimensions were extremely dynamic, such that by 6 weeks post injury the volumes were reduced to a third of those seen after the first week. MPSS marginally reduced lesion volumes across time vs. controls, but the amount of spared gray and white matter remained unaltered between the two groups. Behavioral results further showed that MPSS failed to improve recovery of hind-limb function. These findings add to the emerging scrutiny of MPSS as the standard therapy for acute SCI, as well as indicate the existence of a therapeutic window for tissue sparing restricted to the first several days after this type of SCI in rats. Equally important, our results caution the use of lesion volume dimensions or percent tissue sparing at the epicenter as indicators of therapeutic efficacy because neither reflects the actual amount of tissue sparing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-18
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neuroscience Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2002


  • Pharmacology
  • Rat
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Stereology
  • Steroids
  • Tissue sparing
  • Treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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