The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of direct administration of nerve growth factor (NGF) into an epineural conduit across a short nerve gap (10 mm) in a rabbit sciatic nerve model. The animals were divided into two groups. In group 1, n = 6, a 10-mm defect was created in the sciatic nerve and bridged with an epineural flap. A dose of 1 μg of NGF was locally administered daily for the first 21 days. NGF administration was made inside the epineural flap using a silicone reservoir connected to a silicone tube. In group 2, n = 6, the 10-mm defect was bridged with a nerve graft. This group did not receive any further treatment. At 13 weeks, all animals, before euthanasia, underwent electromyography (EMG) studies and then specimen sent for histology morphometric analysis. NGF administration ensured a significantly increased average number of myelinated axons per μm(2) (P = 0.028) and promoted fiber maturation (P = 0.031) and better EMG results (P = 0.046 for latency P = 0.048 for amplitude), compared with the control group. Although nerve grafts remain the gold standard for peripheral nerve repair, NGF-treated epineural conduits represent a good alternative, particularly when an unfavorable environment for nerve grafts is present.
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