Nerve Endoneurial Microstructure Facilitates Uniform Distribution of Regenerative Fibers: A Post Hoc Comparison of Midgraft Nerve Fiber Densities

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Despite their inferiority to nerve autograft, clinical alternatives are commonly used for reconstruction of peripheral nerve injuries because of their convenient off-the-shelf availability. Previously, our group compared isografts with NeuraGen® (Integra, Plainsboro, NJ) nerve guides, which are a commercially available type I collagen conduit and processed rat allografts comparable to Avance® (AxoGen, Alachua, FL) human decellularized allograft product. From this study, qualitative observations were made of distinct differences in the pattern of regenerating fibers within conduits, acellular allografts, and isografts. In the current post hoc analysis, these observations were quantified. Using nerve density, we statistically compared the differential pattern of regenerating axon fibers within grafts and conduit. The conduits exhibited a consistent decrease in midgraft density when compared with the isograft and acellularized allografts at two gap lengths (14 mm and 28 mm) and time points (12 and 22 weeks). The decrease in density was accompanied by clustered distribution of nerve fibers in conduits, which contrasted the evenly distributed regeneration seen in processed allografts and isografts. We hypothesize that the lack of endoneurial microstructure of conduits results in the clustering regenerating fibers, and that the presence of microstructure in the acellularized allograft and isografts facilitates even distribution of regenerating fibers.

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