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Return of Motor Function After Segmental Nerve Loss in a Rat Model: Comparison of Autogenous Nerve Graft, Collagen Conduit, and Processed Allograft (AxoGen)
Guilherme Giusti, MD1; Wouter F. Willems, MD1; Thomas Kremer, MD1; Patricia F. Friedrich, AAS1; Allen T. Bishop, MD1; Alexander Y. Shin, MD1
1 Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Mayo Clinic, 200 First Street SW, Rochester, MN 55905. E-mail address for A.Y. Shin:shin.alexander@mayo.edu
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Investigation performed at the Department of Orthopedic Surgery and Microvascular Research Laboratory, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota

Disclosure: One or more of the authors received payments or services, either directly or indirectly (i.e., via his or her institution), from a third party in support of an aspect of this work. In addition, one or more of the authors, or his or her institution, has had a financial relationship, in the thirty-six months prior to submission of this work, with an entity in the biomedical arena that could be perceived to influence or have the potential to influence what is written in this work. No author has had any other relationships, or has engaged in any other activities, that could be perceived to influence or have the potential to influence what is written in this work. The complete Disclosures of Potential Conflicts of Interest submitted by authors are always provided with the online version of the article.

Copyright © 2012 by The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc.
J Bone Joint Surg Am, 2012 Mar 07;94(5):410-417. doi: 10.2106/JBJS.K.00253
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An effective alternative to nerve autograft is needed to minimize morbidity and solve limited-availability issues. We hypothesized that the use of processed allografts and collagen conduits would allow recovery of motor function that is equivalent to that seen after the use of autografts.


Sixty-five Lewis rats were divided into three experimental groups. In each group, a unilateral 10-mm sciatic nerve defect was repaired with nerve autograft, allograft treated by AxoGen Laboratories, or a 2.0-mm-inner-diameter collagen conduit. The animals were studied at twelve and sixteen weeks postoperatively. Evaluation included bilateral measurement of the tibialis anterior muscle force and muscle weight, electrophysiology, assessment of ankle contracture, and peroneal nerve histomorphometry. Muscle force was measured with use of our previously described and validated method. Results were expressed as a percentage of the values on the contralateral side. Two-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) corrected by the Ryan-Einot-Gabriel-Welsch multiple range test was used for statistical investigation (α = 0.05).


At twelve weeks, the mean muscle force (and standard deviation), as compared with that on the contralateral (control) side, was 45.2% ± 15.0% in the autograft group, 43.4% ± 18.0% in the allograft group, and 7.0% ± 9.2% in the collagen group. After sixteen weeks, the recovered muscle force was 65.5% ± 14.1% in the autograft group, 36.3% ± 15.7% in the allograft group, and 12.1% ± 16.0% in the collagen group. Autograft was statistically superior to allograft and the collagen conduit at sixteen weeks with regard to all parameters except histomorphometric characteristics (p < 0.05). The collagen-group results were inferior. All autograft-group outcomes improved from twelve to sixteen weeks, with the increase in muscle force being significant.


The use of autograft resulted in better motor recovery than did the use of allograft or a collagen conduit for a short nerve gap in rats. A longer evaluation time of sixteen weeks after segmental nerve injuries in rats would be beneficial as more substantial muscle recovery was seen at that time.

Clinical Relevance: 

On the basis of this study, the enthusiasm for use of processed allograft nerve grafts in motor nerve reconstruction should be tempered until additional studies are performed.

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    These activities have been planned and implemented in accordance with the Essential Areas and policies of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) through the joint sponsorship of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons is accredited by the ACCME to provide continuing medical education for physicians.
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