Objective: To compare axonal regeneration in an animal model after the repair of facial nerve defects with pre-degenerated (PD) and non-PD (NPD) great auricular nerve grafts.
Materials and Methods: The buccal branch of the facial nerve was completely sectioned in 18 New Zealand rabbits, which were randomized to 3 treatment groups: PD great auricular nerve graft repair (PD group), NPD great auricular nerve graft repair (NPD group), and immediate end-to-end repair (control group). Axonal regeneration was examined using optical microscopy to assess the following variables: total number of myelinated axons and regenerating sprouts (MARS) that crossed the distal anastomosis, numbers of intra and extrafascicular MARS, and area of myelinated axons.
Results: The total number of myelinated axons (p = 0.008) and intrafascicular axons (p = 0.02) that crossed the distal anastomosis significantly differed between the NPD and control group. No significant differences were observed between the PD and control group or between the PD and NPD groups.
Conclusion: Nerve repair with PD grafts could be an alternative treatment in the management of injuries resulting in facial nerve gaps.