A number of evaluation methods that are currently used to compare peripheral nerve regeneration with alternative repair methods and to judge the outcome of a new paradigm were hypothesized to lack resolving power. This would too often lead to the conclusion that the outcome of a new paradigm could not be discerned from the outcome of the current gold standard, the autograft. As a consequence, the new paradigm would incorrectly be judged as successful.
An overview of the methods that were used to evaluate peripheral nerve regeneration after grafting of the rat sciatic nerve was prepared. All articles that were published between January 1975 and December 2004 and concerned grafting of the rat sciatic nerve (minimum graft length 5 mm) and in which the experimental method was compared with an untreated or another grafted nerve were included. The author scored the presence of statistically significant differences between paradigms.
Evaluation of nerve fiber count, nerve fiber density, N-ratio, nerve histological success ratio, compound muscle action potential, muscle weight, and muscle tetanic force are methods that were demonstrated to have resolving power.
A number of evaluation methods are not suitable to demonstrate a significant difference between experimental paradigms in peripheral nerve regeneration. It is preferable to apply a combination of evaluation methods with resolving power to evaluate nerve regeneration properly.