Background: Recovery from peripheral nerve repair is frequently incomplete. Hence drugs that enhance nerve regeneration are needed clinically.
Objectives: To study the effects of nandrolone decanoate in a model of deficient reinnervation in the rat.
Methods: In 40 rats, a 40-mm segment of the left median nerve was removed and interposed between the stumps of a sectioned right median nerve. Starting 7 days after nerve grafting and continuing over a 6-month period, we administered nandrolone at a dose of 5 mg/kg/wk to half the rats (n = 20). All rats were assessed behaviorally for grasp function and nociceptive recovery for up to 6 months. At final assessment, reinnervated muscles were tested electrophysiologically and weighed. Results were compared between rats that had received versus not received nandrolone and versus 20 nongrafted controls.
Results: Rats in the nandrolone group recovered finger flexion faster. At 90 days postsurgery, they had recovered 42% of normal grasp strength versus just 11% in rats grafted but not treated with nandrolone. At 180 days, the average values for grasp strength recovery in the nandrolone and no-nandrolone groups were 40% and 33% of normal values for controls, respectively. At 180 days, finger flexor muscle twitch strength was 16% higher in treated versus nontreated rats. Thresholds for nociception were not detected in either group 90 days after nerve grafting. At 180 days, nociceptive thresholds were significantly lower in the nandrolone group.
Conclusions: Nandrolone decanoate improved functional recovery in a model of deficient reinnervation.