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Second Harmonic Generation Microscopy as a Novel Intraoperative Assessment of Rat Median Nerve Injury

Published:November 07, 2022DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhsa.2022.09.017

      Purpose

      Nerves that are functionally injured but appear macroscopically intact pose the biggest clinical dilemma. Second Harmonic Generation (SHG) Microscopy may provide a real-time assessment of nerve damage, with the ultimate goal of allowing surgeons to accurately quantify the degree of nerve damage present. The aim of this study was to demonstrate the utility of SHG microscopy to detect nerve damage in vivo in an animal model.

      Methods

      Ten Sprague-Dawley rats were anesthetized and prepared for surgery. After surgical exposure and using a custom-made stretch applicator, the right median nerves were stretched by 20%, corresponding to a high strain injury, and held for 5 minutes. The left median nerve served as a sham control (SC), only being placed in the applicator for 5 minutes with no stretch. A nerve stimulator was used to assess the amount of stimulation required to induce a flicker and contraction of the paw. Nerves were then imaged using a multiphoton laser scanning microscope.

      Results

      Immediately after injury (day 0), SHG images of SC median nerves exhibited parallel collagen fibers with linear, organized alignment. In comparison with SC nerves, high strain nerves demonstrated artifacts indicative of nerve damage consisting of wavy, undulating fibers with crossing fibers and tears, as well as a decrease in the linear organization, which correlated with an increase in the mean stimulation required to induce a flicker and contraction of the paw.

      Conclusions

      Second Harmonic Generation microscopy may provide the ability to detect an acute neural stretch injury in the rat median nerve. Epineurial collagen disorganization correlated with the stimulation required for nerve function.

      Clinical relevance

      In the future, SHG may provide the ability to visualize nerve damage intraoperatively, allowing for better clinical decision-making. However, this is currently a research tool and requires further validation before translating to the clinical setting.

      Key words

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