Spinal cord injury (SCI) has been investigated in various animal studies. One promising therapeutic approach involves the transfer of peripheral nerves originating above the level of injury into those originating below the level of injury. The purpose of the present study was to evaluate the feasibility of nerve transfers for reinnervation of lower limbs in patients suffering SCI to restore some hip and knee functions, enabling them to independently stand or even step forward with assistive devices and thus improve their quality of life.
The feasibility of transferring intercostal to gluteal nerves and the ilioinguinal and iliohypogastric nerves to femoral nerves was assessed in 5 cadavers. Then, lumbar cord hemitransection was performed below L1 in 20 dogs, followed by transfer of the 10th, 11th, and 12th intercostal and subcostal nerves to gluteal nerves and the ilioinguinal and iliohypogastric nerves to the femoral nerve in only 10 dogs (NT group). At 6 months, clinical and electrophysiological evaluations of the recipient nerves and their motor targets were performed.
The donor nerves had sufficient length to reach the recipient nerves in a tension-free manner. At 6 months postoperatively, the mean conduction velocity of gluteal and femoral nerves, respectively, increased to 96.1% and 92.8% of the velocity in controls, and there was significant motor recovery of the quadriceps femoris and glutei.
Intercostal, ilioinguinal, and iliohypogastric nerves are suitable donors to transfer to the gluteal and femoral nerves after SCI to restore some hip and knee motor functions.
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