Reconstruction of joint-crossing digital nerves requires the application of nerve guides with a much higher flexibility than used for peripheral nerve repair along larger bones. Nevertheless, collapse-resistance should be preserved to avoid secondary damage to the regrowing nerve tissue. In recent years, we presented chitosan nerve guides (CNGs) to be highly supportive for the regeneration of critical gap length peripheral nerve defects in the rat. Now, we evidently increased the bendability of regular CNGs (regCNGs) by developing a wavy wall structure, that is, corrugated CNGs (corrCNGs). In a comprehensive in vivo study, we compared both types of CNGs with clinical gold standard autologous nerve grafts (ANGs) and muscle-in-vein grafts (MVGs) that have recently been highlighted in the literature as a suitable alternative to ANGs. We reconstructed rat sciatic nerves over a critical gap length of 15 mm either immediately upon transection or after a delay period of 45 days. Electrodiagnostic measurements were applied to monitor functional motor recovery at 60, 90, 120, and 150 (only delayed repair) days postreconstruction. Upon explanation, tube properties were analyzed. Furthermore, distal nerve ends were evaluated using histomorphometry, while connective tissue specimens were subjected to immunohistological stainings. After 120 days (acute repair) or 150 days (delayed repair), respectively, compression-stability of regCNGs was slightly increased while it remained stable in corrCNGs. In both substudies, regCNGs and corrCNGs supported functional recovery of distal plantar muscles in a similar way and to a greater extent when compared with MVGs, while ANGs demonstrated the best support of regeneration. Anat Rec, 301:1697-1713, 2018. © 2018 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Keywords: autologous nerve grafts; chitosan nerve guides; delayed nerve reconstruction; electrophysiology; muscle-in-vein grafts; nerve morphometry; rat sciatic nerve.
© 2018 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.