Novel Atraumatic End-to-Side Repair Model Exhibits Robust Collateral Sprouting Independent of Donor Fiber Injury

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A central issue underlying end-to-side neurorrhaphy technique is whether injury to the donor nerve fibers is necessary for successful reinnervation of the recipient nerve. To address this question, the authors developed a novel atraumatic end-to-side neurorrhaphy model that uses the preexisting anatomical structure of the median nerve as the Y-chamber to study the mechanism of collateral sprouting.


In this rat forelimb model, the authors transected the musculocutaneous nerve and the lateral head of the median nerve, and coapted their distal stumps together. In this model, the authors use the medial head of the median nerve as the donor nerve, and the lateral head of the median nerve (distal stump) as a Y-shaped chamber, which provided structural connection to the recipient musculocutaneous nerve in end-to-side fashion.


Three months after surgery, converging histologic, electrophysiologic, and behavioral observations confirmed the successful reinnervation of the recipient nerve. Retrograde labeling indicated that sensory fibers exhibited greater collateral sprouting than observed for motor fibers. Interestingly, fluorescence of these collateral sprouting fibers was present only when the median nerve lateral head was attached to the musculocutaneous nerve of the biceps, indicating that factors derived from the denervated tissue likely induced the collateral sprouting in this model.


The authors’ findings provide strong evidence that collateral sprouting can be robustly initiated independent of donor nerve fiber injury. The authors’ model can accelerate the understanding of the mechanism underlying end-to-side neurorrhaphy and the optimization of its clinical use.

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