Intraspinal replantation of avulsed spinal nerve roots as a surgical treatment for motor deficits after severe brachial plexus injury was investigated in primates. Under general anaesthesia hemi-laminectomy was performed in cynomolgus monkeys (Macaca fascicularis). Ventral roots within the brachial plexus were then avulsed by traction and subsequently implanted into the ventrolateral aspect of the spinal cord. No dysfunction in the long fibre tracts was seen following surgery. Postoperatively there was a flaccid paralysis of the arm on the lesioned side. Severe atrophy developed within 5-7 weeks in the muscles supplied by the avulsed roots and EMG revealed denervation activity. Two to three months after surgery there were EMG signs of reinnervation, which were shortly followed by evidence of clinical recovery. A gradual improvement in the function of the affected arm occurred and the animals' motor behaviour normalised. One year after surgery there was a full range of motion in the arm, but the EMG activity in the reinnervated muscles at maximal force was reduced. Tracing of regenerated motor neurons with horseradish peroxidase (HRP) injected into the biceps muscle revealed retrogradely labelled motor neurons confined to the ipsilateral ventral horn. It was concluded that intraspinal replantation of avulsed ventral roots in primates significantly promotes motor recovery in the muscles supplied by the lesioned spinal cord segments.
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