Object: Suboptimal recovery following repair of major peripheral nerves has been partially attributed to denervation atrophy. Administration of anabolic steroids in conjunction with neurotization may improve functional recovery of chronically denervated muscle. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of the administration of nandrolone on muscle recovery following prolonged denervation in a rat model.
Methods: Eight groups of female Sprague-Dawley rats (15 rats per group, 120 in all) were divided into 3- or 6-month denervated hind limb and sham surgery groups and, then, nandrolone treatment groups and sham treatment groups. Evaluation of treatment effects included nerve conduction, force of contraction, comparative morphology, histology (of muscle fibers), protein electrophoresis (for muscle fiber grouping), and immunohistochemical evaluation.
Results: Although a positive trend was noted, neither reinnervated nor normal muscle showed a statistically significant increase in peak muscle force following nandrolone treatment. Indirect measures, including muscle mass (weight and diameter), muscle cell size, muscle fiber type, and satellite cell counts, all failed to support significant anabolic effect.
Conclusions: There does not seem to be a functional benefit from nandrolone treatment following reinnervation of either mild or moderately atrophic muscle (related to prolonged denervation) in a rodent model.