Objectives: Autologous nerve grafting remains the gold standard for repair of peripheral nerve injuries. Its use, however, is limited by donor nerve availability and donor site morbidity. This is especially problematic after failure of an initial autograft that requires a repeat nerve graft, resulting in a second surgical site with associated morbidity. Based on the molecular differences in nerve degeneration in the proximal and distal segments after transection, we hypothesized that a chronically-denervated proximal stump may be viable for autologous nerve repair.
Methods: 20 Sprague-Dawley rats underwent right sciatic nerve excision and sural nerve transection. After 8 weeks, nerve repair was performed by harvesting the proximal segment of the sural nerve (n=10) or a fresh sural nerve (n=10) from the contralateral hind limb. Electrophysiological changes were analyzed to compare the fresh and denervated grafts.
Results: Electrophysiological testing demonstrated higher compound motor action potential in the denervated group compared to the fresh autograft group, however this difference was not statistically significant (p=0.117).
Conclusion: The proximal segment of a chronically-denervated sural nerve can be as effective as a fresh sural nerve for autologous repair of peripheral nerve injuries in a rodent model.
Delayed nerve repair, denervated graft, nerve autograft, proximal nerve stump