In spite of considerable progress in microsurgical techniques, the treatment of long distance defects in peripheral nerves remains challenging for the surgeon. Autologous nerve grafting has been the only applicable procedure to overcome such defects in the past. Due to the known disadvantages of this procedure (neuroma formation and sensory deficits at the donor-site, limited availability of donor-material, etc.) and impaired regenerative results, different tubulisation techniques are discussed more frequently as alternatives to the autologous nerve grafts. AIM OF THE STUDY:
In this work, the authors summarise their experiences and results with different synthetically developed materials, cellular and acellular tubes and venous conduits for the reconstruction of peripheral nerve defects. MATERIAL AND METHODS:
To analyse peripheral nerve regeneration, we utilised a median nerve model in rats. In these studies nerve gaps up to 40 mm were induced. Guiding tubes of various materials (trimethylene carbonate-epsilon-caprolactone, polyethylene, veins, and collagen) were employed. Furthermore, we introduced Schwann cells as cellular elements into some of the trimethylene carbonate-epsilon-caprolactone tubes. The longest postoperative observation period was nine months. RESULTS:
The results demonstrated that only in the case of cellular filled tubes (syngenic Schwann cells) did regeneration occur across the 20 mm gap. This regeneration was comparable to that induced after autologous grafting. Across a 40 mm gap the autologous graft demonstrated the best results.