A spinal cord injury leads to disturbances of sensory and motor signals due to the damage to white matter and myelinated fiber tracts. Moreover, the damage to gray matter causes segmental loss of interneurons of dorsal horn and motoneurons and restricts the therapeutic options. Neuroprotective strategies have the potential to improve the neurological outcome of patients. To achieve this, concerns to anesthetics or analgesics as neuroprotective interventions have been accumulating to explore neuroprotection during perioperative period.
This review includes consideration of: 1) basic concepts of the pathophysiological mechanisms following spinal cord injury and 2) anesthetics and analgesics displaying neuroprotective potential. In particular, we review the application of isoflurane as an inhalational neuroprotectant and discuss evidence for the neuroprotection provided by barbiturates. In addition, 3) recent advances in stem cell biology, neural injury and repair, and progress toward the development of neuroprotective and regenerative interventions are the basis for increased optimism.