Nerve conduits have become an established option for repair of sensory deficits of up to 2 cm. More recently, decellularized nerve allograft has also been advocated as an option for nerve repair; however, no clinical studies have examined its efficacy for the treatment of sensory nerve defects. The aim of this study was to examine our early experience with the use of decellularized nerve allograft for repair of segmental nerve defects within the hand and fingers. From July 2007 to March 2008, seven patients who had ten nerve gaps were treated surgically using decellularized nerve allograft. Eight digital and two dorsal sensory nerves were repaired. The etiologies of the nerve defects were traumatic nerve transection in eight defects and neuroma resection and reconstruction in two defects. All of the affected nerves were pure sensory fibers. Functional recovery was evaluated by blinded hand therapist using moving and static two point discrimination tests. Implantation sites were also evaluated for any signs of infection, rejection, or graft extrusion. There were five men and two women with a mean age of 44 years (range 23-65). Mean nerve graft length was 2.23 cm with a range of 0.5-3 cm. Mean follow up time was 9 months (range 5-12). Average two point discrimination was 4.4 mm moving and 5.5 mm static at last recorded follow-up. There were no wound infections observed around the graft material and sensory improvement was observed in all of the patients despite this short-term follow-up. Re-exploration of two fingers was required for flexor tendon rupture in one and flexor tendon tenolysis in the other. In both cases, the nerve allograft was visualized and appeared well incorporated in the repair site. Decellularized nerve allografts were capable of returning adequate sensation in nerve defects ranging from 0.5 to 3 cm. There were no cases of infection or rejection. Decellularized nerve allograft may provide an option for segmental nerve gaps beyond 2 cm. Randomized comparative studies will be required to determine efficacy in comparison to collagen conduits or nerve autograft.
- Nerve graft
- Nerve repair
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine