In this study the process of peripheral nerve regeneration through an epineural flap conduit was examined using four groups of 126 New Zealand rabbits. There were three study groups (A, B, and C) and 1 control group (D). A 10-mm long sciatic nerve defect was bridged either with 3 variations of an epineural flap (Groups A, B, and C) or with a nerve autograft (Group D). Animals from all groups were examined 21, 42, and 91 days postoperatively to evaluate nerve regeneration employing light microscopy and immunocytochemistry. Nerve regeneration was studied in transverse sections at 3, 6, and 9 mm from the proximal stump. The gastrocnemius muscle contractility was also examined prior to euthanasia at 91 days postsurgery in all groups using electromyography. Immunohistochemical, histochemical and functional evaluation showed the presence of nerve regeneration resembling the control group D, especially in group A, where an advancement epineural flap was used. In this experimental model an epineural flap can be used to bridge a nerve defect successfully.
Copyright 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.