Sensory innervation of the canine esophagus, stomach, and duodenum

Ramesh K. Khurana, J. M. Petras

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


The sensory innervation of the postpharyngeal foregut was investigated by injecting the enzyme horseradish peroxidase (HRP) into the walls of the esophagus, stomach, or duodenum. The transported HRP was identified histochemically, labeled neurons in the spinal and vagal ganglia were counted, and the results were plotted using an SAS statistical program. The spinal sensory fields of each viscus were defined using three determinations: craniocaudal extent, principal innervation field, and peak innervation field. The data revealed that innervation fields are craniocaudally extensive, the sensory field of each viscus overlaps significantly with its neighbor, yet each viscus can be characterized by a field of peak innervation density. Craniocaudal innervation of the esophagus spans as many as 22–23 paired spinal ganglia (C1‐L2). There are two peak innervation fields for the cervical (C2‐C6 and T2‐T4) and for the thoracic (T2‐T4 and T8‐T12) sectors of the esophagus. The sensory innervation of the stomach extends craniocaudally over as many as 25 paired spinal ganglia (C2‐L5). The peak innervation field of the stomach spans a large area comprising the cranial, middle, and the immediately adjoining caudal thoracic ganglia (T2‐T10). The duodenum is innervated craniocaudally by as many as 15 paired thoracolumbar ganglia (T2‐L3). Peak innervation originates in the middle and caudal thoracic ganglia and cranial lumbar (T6‐L1) ganglia. There is a recognizable viscerotopic organization in the sensory innervation of the postpharyngeal foregut; successively more caudal sectors of this region of the alimentary canal are supplied with sensory fibers from successively more caudal spinal dorsal root ganglia. Vagal afferent innervation of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum is bilateral and originates predominantly, but not exclusively, from vast numbers of neurons in the nodose (distal) ganglia. The esophagus is innervated bilaterally and more abundantly by jugular (proximal) ganglia neurons than is either the stomach or duodenum. The physiological significance of the findings are discussed in relation to the phenomena of visceral pain and referred pain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)293-306
Number of pages14
JournalAmerican Journal of Anatomy
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 1991
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy


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