Although there is much information on experimental ischaemic neuropathy, there are only scant data on neuroprotection. We evaluated the effectiveness of hypothermia in protecting peripheral nerve from ischaemia-reperfusion injury using the model of experimental nerve ischaemia. Forty-eight male Sprague-Dawley rats were divided into six groups. We used a ligation-reperfusion model of nerve ischaemia where each of the supplying arteries to the sciatic-tibial nerves of the right hind limb was ligated and the ligatures were released after a predetermined period of ischaemia. The right hind limbs of one group (24 rats) were made ischaemic for 5 h and those of the other group (24 rats) for 3 h. Each group was further divided into three and the limbs were maintained at 37°C (36°C for 5 h of ischaemia) in one, 32°C in the second and 28°C in the third of these groups for the final 2 h of the ischaemic period and an additional 2 h of the reperfusion period. A behavioural score was recorded and nerve electrophysiology of motor and sensory nerves was undertaken 1 week after surgical procedures. At that time, entire sciatic-tibial nerves were harvested and fixed in situ. Four portions of each nerve were examined: proximal sciatic nerve, distal sciatic nerve, mid-tibial nerve and distal tibial nerve. To determine the degree of fibre degeneration, each section was studied by light microscopy, and we estimated an oedema index and a fibre degeneration index. The groups treated at 36-37°C underwent marked fibre degeneration, associated with a reduction in action potential and impairment in behavioural score. The groups treated at 28°C (for both 3 and 5 h) showed significantly less (P < 0.01; ANOVA, Bonferoni post hoc test) reperfusion injury for all indices (behavioural score, electrophysiology and neuropathology), and the groups treated at 32°C had scores intermediate between the groups treated at 36-37°C and 28°C. Our results showed that cooling the limbs dramatically protects the peripheral nerve from ischaemia-reperfusion injury.
- Peripheral nerve
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