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Neural Regen Res. 2020 Mar;15(3):491-502. doi: 10.4103/1673-5374.266068.

Animal models used to study direct peripheral nerve repair: a systematic review.

Author information

Department of Microsurgery, Jesús Usón Minimally Invasive Surgery Centre, Cáceres, Spain.
Scientific Director, Jesús Usón Minimally Invasive Surgery Centre, Cáceres, Spain.



Peripheral nerve repair is required after traumatic injury. This common condition represents a major public health problem worldwide. Recovery after nerve repair depends on several factors, including the severity of the injury, the nerve involved, and the surgeon's technical skills. Despite the precise microsurgical repair of nerve lesions, adequate functional recovery is not always achieved and, therefore, the regeneration process and surgical techniques are still being studied. Pre-clinical animal models are essential for this research and, for this reason, the focus of the present systematic review (according to the PRISMA statement) was to analyze the different animal models used in pre-clinical peripheral nerve repair studies.

Data sources:

Original articles, published in English from 2000 to 2018, were collected using the Web of Science, Scopus, and PubMed databases.

Data selection:

Only preclinical trials on direct nerve repair were included in this review. The articles were evaluated by the first two authors, in accordance with predefined data fields.

Outcome measures:

The primary outcomes included functional motor abilities, daily activity and regeneration rate. Secondary outcomes included coaptation technique and animal model.


This review yielded 267 articles, of which, after completion of the screening, 49 studies were analyzed. There were 1425 animals in those 49 studies, being rats, mice, guinea pigs, rabbits, cats and dogs the different pre-clinical models. The nerves used were classified into three groups: head and neck (11), forelimb (8) and hindlimb (30). The techniques used to perform the coaptation were: microsuture (46), glue (12), laser (8) and mechanical (2). The follow-up examinations were histology (43), electrophysiological analysis (24) and behavioral observation (22).


The most widely used animal model in the study of peripheral nerve repair is the rat. Other animal models are also used but the cost-benefit of the rat model provides several strengths over the others. Suture techniques are currently the first option for nerve repair, but the use of glues, lasers and bioengineering materials is increasing. Hence, further research in this field is required to improve clinical practice.


PRISMA; animal model; coaptation; direct nerve repair; microsurgery; nerve; peripheral nerve; reconstruction; regeneration; repair; systematic review

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