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Clin Orthop Relat Res. 1998 Jun;(351):230-40.

Fracture healing and callus innervation after peripheral nerve resection in rats.

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  • 1Institute for Surgical Research, Rikshospitalet, University of Oslo, Norway.


The effects of femoral and sciatic nerve resection on fracture healing and innervation of the fracture callus were studied using a stable fracture model. In 34 rats the right tibia was subjected to a standardized closed fracture and stabilized with a modular intramedullary nail. In half of the animals, resection of 1 cm of the femoral and sciatic nerves was performed (nerve resection group), whereas the other animals had sham operations (sham group). To avoid unequal load-bearing between the two groups, all fractured hindlimbs were immobilized in a plaster of Paris cast. The trial was terminated after 5 weeks of fracture healing. Callus size was scored radiographically, and bone mineralization was measured by 85-strontium incorporation. Seven rats from each group had immunohistochemical examination for neural regeneration and ingrowth. Antisera for protein gene product 9.5, neurofilaments, neural growth associated protein 43/B-50, calcitonin gene related peptide, and substance P were used. The mechanical properties of the healing fractures were recorded in a three-point cantilever bending test. After 5 weeks, the normally innervated, fractured tibias had regained approximately 50% strength compared with the unfractured side, in comparison with only 20% in the animals that had nerve resection. Although the fracture calluses were mechanically weaker, they were significantly larger in the nerve resection group, indicating defects in tissue composition or organization rendered by the nerve injury. The mineralization rate, as measured by 85-strontium incorporation, was the same in the two groups. However, the nerve resection did not provide complete denervation but changed the innervation pattern of the healing fracture, as the density of sensory nerve fibers immunostaining for substance P and neurofilaments was less in the group with femoral and sciatic nerve resection. The results suggest that intact innervation is essential for normal fracture healing because nerve injury induced a large, but mechanically insufficient, fracture callus.

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