Effect of long-term electroacupuncture stimulation on recovery of sensorimotor function after peripheral nerve anastomosis

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Abstract

Background

Recently, application of electroacupuncture (EA) to stimulate nerve regeneration has become a mainstream treatment in clinical rehabilitation and related basic research, but the efficacy of long-term stimulation has not been confirmed.

Objective

To evaluate the influence of long term EA on peripheral nerve injury (PNI) from multiple angles.

Method

Twenty-four rats were divided into three groups: control, PNI and PNI+EA. In the latter two groups, PNI was modelled by transection followed by re-anastomosis of thesciatic nerve. In the PNI+EA group only,EA was delivered using a discontinuous wave with frequency 5 Hz, pulse width 2 ms, and intensity approximately 2 mA, until the affected limb was observed to twitch slightly. The treatment was given for 15 min each time, six times a week (continuously for 6 days followed by a 1-day break) for a total of 8 weeks. The effects of EA on anastomotic sciatic nerve regeneration were evaluated using the sciatic function index (SFI), mechanical withdrawal thresholds, thermo-nociceptive thresholds, conduction velocity of the sciatic nerve and bilateral gastrocnemius wet weight.

Results

From weeks 2 to 4 after modelling, the SFI recovery rate in the PNI+EA group was faster than that in the PNI group. In week 4, the SFI of the PNI+EA group was significantly higher than that of the PNI group (p<0.05). However, a significant effect of EA was no longer evident from weeks 5 to 8. There was no effect of acupuncture on anti-amyotrophy and conduction velocity of the sciatic nerve at 8 weeks after modelling. EA did not shorten the paw withdrawal threshold time, but appeared to alleviate thermo-nociceptive sensitivity.

Conclusion

Long term repeated stimulation of the same site with EA does not appear to be conducive to the functional recovery of an injured sciatic nerve in rats.

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