The pia mater is one of three membrane layers that surround the brain and spinal cord. Together, these membranes are called the meninges.
The outermost and toughest layer of the meninges is the dura mater, which is farthest away from the brain and spinal cord. The middle layer is the arachnoid mater, which is followed by a layer of cerebrospinal fluid. The pia mater is the innermost layer of the meninges, meaning it is attached directly to the brain and spinal cord.
Pia mater literally means “tender mother” and this name is well-suited to the membrane because it is the thinnest, most delicate layer of the meninges. It has a mesh-like consistency and is anchored directly to the brain by a sheet of flat, star-shaped cells called astrocytes that help maintain homeostasis, or the regulation of the brain and spine’s internal environment. The pia mater is anchored to the spine through a series of small ligaments. The roles of the pia mater include:
- Supplies blood to the brain and supports blood vessels, referred to as vascularization
- Aids in production of cerebrospinal fluid
- Envelops and protects the brain
One of the main risks involved with the pia mater is meningitis, which is when this meningeal layer becomes inflamed, often because of an infection with bacteria, viruses, or some other microorganism. Because the pia mater is so directly connected to the most important and vulnerable parts of our body – the brain and spinal cord – meningitis is a serious, life-threatening emergency. Symptoms can include neck stiffness, headaches, or loss of consciousness. Usually, a sample of cerebrospinal fluid is used to test for meningitis.
Furthermore, the nerve roots that branch off the spinal cord are so close to the pia mater that any constriction of these roots can affect this membrane. If your physician has diagnosed you with a condition that inhibits nerve function in the spinal column, such as herniated disc, bone spurs, bulging discs, degenerative disc disease, or foraminal stenosis, you may want to try conventional treatment options, such as mild exercise, physical therapy, chiropractic work, anti-inflammatory medications, or steroid injections. These treatments, however, are not effective for everyone.
If conventional spine treatments have not been providing you with relief from your symptoms, you may want to keep Laser Spine Institute (LSI) in mind. At LSI, we have pioneered minimally-invasive, endoscopic procedures aimed at decompressing the constriction of spinal nerves. Contact us today for more information or for a free review of your MRI or CT scan. Let us help you rediscover a life without pain.