The potential of electrical stimulation to promote functional recovery after peripheral nerve injury--comparisons between rats and humans.

T. Gordon, T. M. Brushart, N. Amirjani, K. M. Chan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The declining capacity for injured peripheral nerves to regenerate their axons with time and distance is accounted for, at least in part, by the chronic axotomy of the neurons and Schwann cell denervation prior to target reinnervation. A largely unrecognized site of delay is the surgical suture site where, in rats, 4 weeks is required for all neurons to regenerate their axons across the site. Low frequency stimulation for just 1 h after surgery accelerates this axon crossing in association with upregulation of neurotrophic factors in the neurons. We translated these findings to human patients by examining the number of reinnervated motor units in the median nerve-innervated thenar muscles before and after carpel tunnel release surgery in a randomized controlled trial. Motor unit number estimates (MUNE) in patients with moderate and severe carpal tunnel syndrome were significantly lower than normal. This number increased significantly by 6-8 months after surgery and reached normal values by 12 months in contrast to a non-significant increase in the control unstimulated group. Tests including the Purdue Pegboard Test verified the more rapid functional recovery after stimulation. The data indicate a feasible strategy to promote axonal regeneration in humans that has the potential to improve functional outcomes, especially in combination with strategies to sustain the regenerative capacity of neurons and the support of Schwann cells over distance and time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-11
Number of pages9
JournalActa neurochirurgica. Supplement
Volume100
StatePublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology

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