Background: We investigated the use of a conduit splinting technique to mitigate tension at the coaptation site of a rodent nerve defect model to determine the optimal reconstruction method for segmental nerve defects. Methods: A rat sciatic nerve segmental defect model was created by excising 5mm of the sciatic nerve unilaterally. Four groups of 10 rats were each reconstructed using 1 of 4 techniques: primary repair, repair with conduit splinting, reverse isograft with conduit splinting, and reverse isograft without splinting. Functional outcomes were assessed at 6 weeks by measurement of Sciatic Functional Index (SFI), and sciatic nerves were harvested at the nonsurvival surgery. Histomorphologic measurements were reported as a value normalized to the average measurements of the control side. The primary outcomes were assessment of nerve continuity and the proportion of nerve fibers in the regenerating nerve compared with the uninjured side. Results: The number of repair site rupture rates was lower when a conduit splint was used—less than half of the primary repairs under tension remained intact at 6 weeks. No difference was seen in axon number, size, and density between primary repairs and those augmented by conduit splints, but worse functional outcomes and more debris were present compared with the intact primary repairs. Conclusions: Nerve conduit splinting reduced rupture rates, particularly for nerve repairs associated with a segmental defect. No significant difference was seen in the number of axons among techniques. Primary nerve repair under tension that did not rupture demonstrated superior SFI.
- peripheral nerve
- segmental defect