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Hand (N Y). 2011 Jun;6(2):142-8. doi: 10.1007/s11552-011-9331-y. Epub 2011 Apr 9.

The use of anabolic steroids as a strategy in reversing denervation atrophy after delayed nerve repair.

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Division of Hand Surgery, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Virginia Commonwealth University Health Systems, 1200 East Broad Street, P.O. Box 980153, Richmond, VA 23298 USA.



Denervation atrophy is one factor contributing to suboptimal motor recovery following major nerve repair. The hypertrophic effects of anabolic steroids may have a potential role in improving reinnervated muscle strength after delayed repair.


Forty-five immature female Sprague-Dawley rats underwent three surgeries and final testing. The tibial nerve was transected in the hind limb of the experimental (n = 13) and control (n = 14) animals and exposed, but not transected in the sham (n = 15) group animals. Three months later, once denervation atrophy was established, all transected nerves underwent repair using an autograft from the contralateral limb. After waiting an additional month to allow axonal regeneration to the gastrocnemius muscles, the rodents were implanted with a subcutaneous infusion pump. For the experimental group, nandrolone was administered over the next 30 days via this pump, while the control and sham group pumps were filled with carrier only.


Final testing, 6 weeks later, showed improved muscle contraction strength in the steroid-treated animals (72% of sham group strength) compared to control animals (57% of sham group strength, p < 0.5). A trend towards increased weight and muscle belly diameter in the steroid-treated group was not statistically significant.


These findings support the potential role of anabolic steroids in improving recovery of atrophic muscle after delayed reinnervation.


Anabolic steroids; Denervation atrophy; Nerve repair

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