Acta Neuropathologica

, Volume 63, Issue 1, pp 18–23 | Cite as

Chlorhexidine-induced degeneration of adrenergic nerves

  • A. Henschen
  • L. Olson
Original Works


Possible toxic effects of chlorhexidine (CHX) on the sympathetic adrenergic ground plexus were studied in whole mounts of albino rat irides using Falck-Hillarp fluorescence histochemistry. CHX dissolved in an isotone, buffered sodium-acetate solution or in 70% alcohol was injected into the anterior chamber of eye. CHX caused a marked and dose-dependent degeneration of adrenergic nerves. Two days after the lowest dose, 0,25 μg (5 μl of a 0.05% CHX solution), approximately 30% of the nerves had disappeared. Almost complete degeneration was observed after the same time with higher doses (2.5 μg, 5.0 μg, and 7.5 μg corresponding to 0.5, 1.0, and 1.5% CHX respectively). Two weeks after the lowest dose, the nerves had regenerated almost completely. With the highest dose used, only some 40% of the normal adrenergic nerve plexus had reformed after 51 days. Alcohol as a solvent did not have an additive effect on the neurotoxic action caused by CHX. The results demonstrate yet another aspect of chlorhexidine neurotoxicity, degeneration of peripheral adrenergic nerve terminals. This suggests that neurotoxic actions on thin unmyelinated fiber systems should be looked for also in the central nervous system (CNS).

Key words

Chlorhexidine Adrenergic nerves Falck-Hillarp histochemistry Neurotoxicity Iris whole mounts Quantitative image analysis 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Henschen
    • 1
  • L. Olson
    • 1
  1. 1.Dept. of HistologyKarolinska InstituteStockholmSweden

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