Long-Term Observation of the Effect of Peripheral Nerve Injury in Neonatal and Young Rats

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The purpose of this study was to observe functional recovery and motoneuron death after nerve transectionand-repair in neonatal versus young animals. One hundred nine Lewis rats underwent posterior tibial nerve transection-and-repair at 6 or 22 days of age. Fifty-two and fifty-seven nerves at the 6- and 22-day times were used for endpoint analysis at 1, 3, 10, and 14 months. These assessments included serial functional walking track analysis, electrophysiologic studies, muscle mass evaluation, motoneuron counts with retrograde horseradish peroxidase tracing, and histologic and morphometric nerve analysis. Walking track analysis and nerve conduction velocity indicated significantly poorer functional regeneration in the 6-day-old group than in the 22-day-old group. Muscle mass in the 6-day-old group did not recover as well as in the 22-day-old group. Motoneuron numbers stained with horseradish peroxidase were less in the 6-day-old group than in the 22-day-old group. In contrast, morphometric analysis did not reach significance. This study suggests that the same nerve injury sustained in a neonatal rat is less likely to demonstrate functional recovery than one sustained in a young rat. (Plast. Reconstr. Surg. 102: 2072, 1998.)

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