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Sci Rep. 2019 Jun 7;9(1):8353. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-44342-9.

Effect of Motor versus Sensory Nerve Autografts on Regeneration and Functional Outcomes of Rat Facial Nerve Reconstruction.

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Department of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery, Michigan Medicine, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.
Department of Neurology, Michigan Medicine, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.
Department of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery, Michigan Medicine, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.


Cranial nerve injury is disabling for patients, and facial nerve injury is particularly debilitating due to combined functional impairment and disfigurement. The most widely accepted approaches for reconstructing nerve gap injuries involve using sensory nerve grafts to bridge the nerve defect. Prior work on preferential motor reinnervation suggests, however, that motor pathways may preferentially support motoneuron regeneration after nerve injury. The effect of motor versus sensory nerve grafting after facial nerve injury has not been previously investigated. Insights into outcomes of motor versus sensory grafting may improve understanding and clinical treatment of facial nerve paralysis, mitigating facial asymmetry, aberrant reinnervation, and synkinesis. This study examined motor versus sensory grafting of the facial nerve to investigate effect of pathway on regeneration across a 5-mm rodent facial nerve defect. We enrolled 18 rats in 3 cohorts (motor, sensory, and defect) and recorded outcome measures including fiber count/nerve density, muscle endplate reinnervation, compound muscle action potential, and functional whisker twitch analysis. Outcomes were similar for motor versus sensory groups, suggesting similar ability of sensory and motor grafts to support regeneration in a clinically relevant model of facial nerve injury.

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