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Anat Rec (Hoboken). 2007 May;290(5):477-85.

Microscopic anatomy of brachial plexus branches in Wistar rats.

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Department of Neurology, Medical School of Ribeirão Preto, University of São Paulo, Ribeirão Preto, São Paulo, Brazil.


In the present study, we analyze the morphology and morphometry of the lateral proper digital nerve of the third finger, and of the proximal and distal segments of the ulnar, median, and radial nerves, in Wistar rats 4 or 7 weeks old. The fascicular area and diameter were generally significantly greater in the proximal compared to distal segments and tended to be larger in 7-week-old compared to 4-week-old rats (e.g., median nerve area of 0.13 mm(2) for the proximal and 0.07 mm(2) for distal segments in 4-week-old rats, and 0.17 and 0.10 mm(2), respectively, for the proximal and distal segments of 7-week-old rats). The number of fascicles was significantly greater while the number of myelinated fibers was significantly less in the distal segments (e.g., 1,359 and 509 myelinated fibers, respectively, in the proximal and distal segments of the radial nerve 4-week-old rats). There was no significant difference in these parameters between the two age groups. The diameter of the myelinated fibers and their respective axons increased from 4 to 7 weeks of age (e.g., myelinated fiber diameter of 4.10 microm in 4-week-old animals and 4.7 microm in the ulnar nerve proximal segment of 7-week-old rats). The g-ratio regression line (axon diameter vs. fiber diameter quotient) was outlined for all the nerves studied here. Differences in myelinated fiber density were detected between the segments of the radial nerve, accompanying the number of myelinated fibers. Detailed knowledge of the microscopic anatomy of rat forelimb nerves provides control data for comparison with studies of experimentally induced neuropathies, which can shed more light on human neuropathies.

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