Investigations reporting positive effects of extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT) on nerve regeneration are limited to the rat sciatic nerve model. The effects of ESWT on muscle-in-vein conduits (MVCs) have also not been investigated yet. This study aimed to evaluate the effects of ESWT after repair of the rat median nerve with either autografts (ANGs) or MVCs. In male Lewis rats, a 7 mm segment of the right median nerve was reconstructed either with an ANG or an MVC. For each reconstructive technique, one group of animals received one application of ESWT while the other rats served as controls. The animals were observed for 12 weeks, and nerve regeneration was assessed using computerized gait analysis, the grasping test, electrophysiological evaluations and histological quantification of axons, blood vessels and lymphatic vasculature. Here, we provide for the first time a comprehensive analysis of ESWT effects on nerve regeneration in a rat model of median nerve injury. Furthermore, this study is among the first reporting the quantification of lymphatic vessels following peripheral nerve injury and reconstruction in vivo. While we found no significant direct positive effects of ESWT on peripheral nerve regeneration, results following nerve repair with MVCs were significantly inferior to those after ANG repair.
Keywords: CatWalk; autologous nerve graft; extracorporeal shockwave therapy; gait analysis; grasping test; median nerve; muscle-in-vein conduit; nerve regeneration; nerve repair; rat.