The level of resection of damaged nerve tissue in acute and chronic nerve lesions was determined on the basis of the vascular structure, the consistency of the nerve during palpation, the amount of interfascicular connective tissue, and the mushroom formation of the fascicles. Intraoperative electrophysiologic recordings were performed on the cut nerve ends to determine the function of the axons. Postoperative planimetric analyses of cross sections made through the resected nerve stumps were performed to measure axonal and endoneural tube diameters and to correlate these results with the clinical criteria used through the operating microscope.
Axons in the proximal nerve ends of acute and chronic nerve lesions displayed a similar mean diameter. Endoneural tubes in chronic nerve lesions shrunk significantly as nerve repair was delayed. In several nerve lesions in continuity, axons remained present across the injured site despite absence of electrical conduction. When comparing the results of axonal or endoneural tube diameters of chronic nerve lesions to the results of other studies or acute nerve lesions, we demonstrated that careful examination through the operating microscope provided valid information about the proper management and resection level of chronic nerve lesions.
Electrophysiologic evaluation aided the surgical management but was not useful for the resection of the distal damaged nerve segment. The presence of an evoked potential in the proximal nerve ends guaranteed a nearly normal nerve fiber diameter distribution, while the absence of such a potential in the distal nerve ends indicated an abnormal, absent, or disturbed endoneural tube diameter histogram.
(C)1985American Society of Plastic Surgeons