BACKGROUND - Conduit-based nerve repairs are commonly used for small nerve gaps, whereas primary repair may be performed if there is no tension on nerve endings. We hypothesize that a conduit-based nerve coaptation device will improve nerve repair outcomes by avoiding sutures at the nerve repair site and utilizing the advantages of a conduit-based repair.
METHODS - The left sciatic nerves of female Sprague-Dawley rats were transected and repaired using a novel conduit-based device. The conduit-based device group was compared to a control group of rats that underwent a standard end-to-end microsurgical repair of the sciatic nerve. Animals underwent behavioral assessments at weekly intervals post-operatively using the sciatic functional index (SFI) test. Animals were sacrificed at four weeks to obtain motor axon counts from immunohistochemistry. A sub-group of animals were sacrificed immediately post repair to obtain MRI images.
RESULTS - SFI scores were superior in rats which received conduit-based repairs compared to the control group. Motor axon counts distal to the injury in the device group at four weeks were statistically superior to the control group. MRI tractography was used to demonstrate repair of two nerves using the novel conduit device.
CONCLUSIONS - A conduit-based nerve coaptation device avoids sutures at the nerve repair site and leads to improved outcomes in a rat model. Conduit-based nerve repair devices have the potential to standardize nerve repairs while improving outcomes.