Transmission electron microscopy and histological analysis of the peridural membrane

  • David G. M. Tiernan
  • Aiden T. Devitt
Original Article



While first described in 1904, the characterisation of the peridural membrane, which is frequently encountered, yet usually unnoticed, during lumbar decompression surgery, remains inconclusive. This relatively little known membrane is continuous with the posterior longitudinal ligament and lines the epidural space. In this study, we are comparing the membrane and ligamentum flavum from patients to analyse the variations of the histological and ultrastructural compositions.

Materials and methods

We took samples of the membrane and ligamentum flavum from five separate patients who were undergoing lumbar spine decompression surgery for herniated discs which were then analysed with transmission electron microscopy and stained with H&E (morphology), trichrome (collagen content), and Verhoeff-Van Gieson (elastin content).


Upon analysis of the peridural membrane, we observed tightly packed collagen fibres, interspaced with elastin fibres and very few fibroblasts. While the ligamentum flavum showed a significantly higher elastin to collagen ratio and looser arrangement of collagen fibres with a larger extracellular matrix. The peridural membrane was similar in appearance and constituent parts to the dura mater.


The peridural membrane is a distinctive and important membrane in the spinal canal, and given its high collagen to elastin ratio and it tightly packed nature, we conclude that it forms a protective layer around the spinal cord which may help in minimising the compressive nature of intervertebral disc herniation.


Epidural membrane Meningeal membranes Peridural membrane Posterior longitudinal ligament Spinal surgery 


Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical approval was granted by the Galway University Hospital Ethics Committee.

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments.

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of OrthopaedicsUniversity Hospital GalwayGalwayIreland
  2. 2.National University of IrelandGalwayIreland

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