To clarify how the peripheral nerve adapts to elongation during gradual limb lengthening, electrophysiological and histomorphometric examinations were performed on the sciatic nerves in 18 rabbits. External fixators were used to lengthen the right femora by 30 mm (30%), at a daily rate of 0.5 mm (Group 1) or 2.0 mm (Group 2). Examinations were performed immediately after the limb lengthening procedure. Electrophysiologically, mild conduction slowing was observed in Group 1; a conduction block was evident in Group 2. Histologically, the mean diameter of myelinated fibers was unchanged in Group 1, but a significantly decreased diameter was observed in Group 2. Electron microscopy revealed that mild degenerative change of unmyelinated axons occurred sporadically in two cases in Group 2, but neither group showed evidence of thinning of myelin sheath of myelinated fibers. The mean internodal length (between nodes of Ranvier) of teased fibers was 1216 ± 295 μm in the control contralateral side, 1484 ± 347 μm in Group 1, and 1467 ± 322 μm in Group 2. Thus the internodes were lengthened by 22.1% (Group 1) and 20.7% (Group 2) in comparison with those of the controls. Straightening of the geometry of paranodal myelin sheath was significantly correlated with the rate of distraction. These results indicate that myelinated nerve fibers adapt to gradual elongation by lengthening each Schwann cell body, not by proliferation of Schwann cells. © 2002 Orthopaedic Research Society. Published by Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
Journal of Orthopaedic Research – Wiley
Published: Jan 1, 2003
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