, Volume 28, Issue 6, pp 596-605
Date: 11 Oct 2006

Human pelvic extramural ganglion cells: a semiquantitative and immunohistochemical study

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In pelvic surgery, much attention is paid to nerve bundles but not to ganglion cells. Using serial section histology of 14 postmortem-treated hemipelvis (eight males, six females; mean, 79 years old), we examined the population number, distribution, and tyrosine hydroxylase-immunoreactivity (TH-IR; suggesting sympathetic neurons) of extramural pelvic ganglion cells. All pelvic ganglion cells were uniformly sized (25–30 μm) contrasting with small intramural rectal neurons. Abundant ganglion cells (30,000–140,000 unilaterally) existed not only along the pelvic viscera except for the rectum, but also along the hypogastric nerve, pelvic splanchnic nerve, pelvic plexus, and associated branches excluding those within the mesorectum. The intrapelvic ganglion cells outside the sympathetic trunk did not form macroscopically identifiable ganglia, but made small clusters (0.1–2.0 mm of maximum diameter) or were diffusely scattered within nerve bundles. More than half of these cells appeared TH-IR positive, although the positive/negative proportion differed between nerves and specimens. Greater numbers of ganglion cells were found in dorsosuperior sites (e.g., around the seminal vesicle) rather than in ventroinferior sites (e.g., along the urethra) in males, and vice versa in females. However, in total cell numbers, interindividual variations were evident rather than intergender difference. Due to significant interindividual variations in cell number, differences are likely to exist between patients in “resistance” to surgical stresses. We hypothesized that pelvic ganglion cells are liable to be damaged due to drying along the surgical margin, hypoxia in venous bleeding, pressure from surgical retractors, extension stress with taping and excess traction and/or direct injury with electrical scalpels.