Purpose: Acellular nerve allograft is a new option for bridging nerve defects that allows appropriate diameter matching. The aim of the study was to compare the histologic and functional recovery of nerve defects treated with acellular nerve allograft versus cabled sural nerve autograft.
Method: Fifty-four Sprague-Dawley rats were divided into one of three experimental groups. A unilateral 10 mm sciatic nerve defect was created and repaired with an acellular nerve allograft (Group A), three cabled sural nerve autografts in antidromic orientation (Group B), and the newly created segmental defect in antidromic orientation (reversed autograft) (Group C). Two rats in each group we evaluated histologically at 6 weeks while the rest of the groups were tested histologically and functionally at 12 weeks.
Results: There were no differences in histomorphometry between the groups at 6 weeks, but at 12 weeks at mid-graft there were differences. Group C had the highest fiber count which was statistically greater when compared to Group A (P = 0.023) and when compared to Group B (P = 0.001). The average normalized maximum isometric tetanic force (ITF) was 52 ± 2.9% for Group A, 34.1 ± 4.2% for Group B, and 51.3 ± 3.3% for Group C at 12 weeks. There was no statistical difference between Groups A and C, but Group A was statistically greater when compared to B, and when Group C was compared to B.
Conclusion: In conclusion, acellular nerve allograft demonstrated equal functional recovery when compared to reversed autograft (control), and superior recovery compared to the cabled nerve autograft.
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