What Happens If the Dorsal Root of a Spinal Nerve Is Severed?

Dorsal nerve roots control the sensation of temperature and pain; damage potentially causes an intensification of pain or an interruption of sensation. Thirty-one pairs of nerve roots branch out from the spinal column.

A dorsal nerve root is a bundle of nerve fibers responsible for transmitting sensory signals from the body to the brain. A dorsal root is paired with a ventral root, and together these form what are called the mixed segmental spinal nerves. The Laser Spine Institute states that, “If severed, pinched or constricted, the signals of a dorsal nerve root are potentially intensified or interrupted. This causes pain, numbness, pins and needles or the sensation of heat along the affected nerve.” According to NCBI, surgeons do attempt to reconnect ventral roots to the spinal cord, while severed dorsal roots are usually left untreated because the latter do not regenerate central sensory axons in the spinal cord. The nerve root is particularly vulnerable in the foramen, which is the open space between each vertebra. This is the pathway used by nerves traveling to other parts of the body. Damage or injury to a vertebra can constrict or inhibit this vital passageway and cause significant damage to the nerves.