The 10 mm rat sciatic nerve defect model is commonly used to investigate new strategies to improve functional recovery with segmental nerve defects. However, a lack of standardization makes comparisons between studies difficult. The present study aims to evaluate a standardized experimental model that can minimize the number of animals required for obtaining valid results and simulates a current treatment for human peripheral nerve injury defects. Eighteen cadaveric Sprague-Dawley rats were utilized in the anatomic arm of the study and 18 living Sprague-Dawley rats were used in the experimental arm. The results from the cadaveric study allowed us to create an ipsilateral, three-cable autologous sural nerve graft technique in the rat. This repair construct was evaluated with functional and histomorphometric analysis of nerve regeneration. The results support functional recovery of the sciatic nerve in all grafted animals. The use of an ipsilateral cabled sural nerve graft technique in the rat sciatic nerve defect model is a viable control group that utilizes a single incision, incurs minimal morbidity, and maintains muscle attachments. We conclude that this rat model can be used in various experimental trials in the field of peripheral nerve regeneration.
Published by Elsevier B.V.