To assess the feasibility of laser tissue welding for repair of facial nerve injury.Methods
In a prospective in vivo animal survival surgery model, rabbit facial nerve injury was followed by either standard suture neurorrhaphy or laser tissue welding using a diode laser (808 ± 1 nm) to weld biological solder. Rabbits were evaluated at 4, 8, 12, and 16 weeks by facial videography and electromyography. Histopathological analysis of the repair was performed at 4 and 16 weeks.Results
Videographic analysis demonstrated the laser tissue welding repair trended toward superior outcomes compared with suture neurorrhaphy at all 4 time points. Electrophysiological analysis demonstrated similar or better results, with statistically significant improvement at week 16 (P < .05). Histologic analysis demonstrated no difference in axon organization or extravasation between groups; however, the laser nerve repair created a greater initial inflammatory reaction. An analysis of operative time demonstrated significantly decreased time and ease of use for laser tissue welding.Conclusions
This pilot study demonstrates that laser nerve welding may be an expedient, feasible, and safe method for facial nerve repair in a rabbit model. Further experiments with larger numbers are needed to provide additional evidence that laser tissue welding produces a neurorrhaphy that has functional, electrophysiological, and histological results that could rival traditional suture neurorrhaphy.