The use of autogenous vein grafts for inferior alveolar and lingual nerve reconstruction


      Purpose: This study evaluated whether an autogenous vein graft forms a satisfactory conduit for nerve regeneration. Patients and Methods: Fifteen patients received a total of 16 autogenous vein grafts to repair continuity defects of the inferior alveolar (6) and lingual nerves (10) nerves. All were treated between 4 and 10 months after injury. At surgery, the postresection defects ranged from 2 to 14 mm. All lingual nerves were repaired with saphenous vein grafts from an intraoral approach and all inferior alveolar nerves were repaired with facial vein grafts inserted from an extraoral approach. Results: Lingual nerve repair in 3 cases where the gap between the nerve ends was 5 mm or less resulted in some return of sensation. In 7 cases where the gap was between 5 and 14 mm, there was no return of sensation. In the 6 inferior alveolar nerve repairs there was some return of sensation in all cases and there was good return of sensation in 3 cases. One patient redeveloped dysesthesia in the inferior alveolar nerve and subsequently had a neurectomy. Histologic material was available from this case. Conclusions: It appears that a vein graft can form a physiologic conduit for nerve regeneration. The results are more successful with shorter gaps, which indicates that, in some respects, the vein acts like a barrier membrane. The increased success rate in the inferior alveolar nerve repair may be because the vein remains straight and patent in the inferior alveolar canal. The lack of success with a long lingual nerve gap repair may be because the vein is collapsed or kinked by movement of the tongue, which may inhibit neural regeneration. Therefore, vein grafts should not be used for long lingual nerve continuity defects. © 2001 American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons
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