High-resolution magnetic resonance imaging is a noninvasive method of observing injury and recovery in the peripheral nervous system

Beverly D. Aagaard, Daniel A. Lazar, Luba Lankerovich, Kathleen Andrus, Cecil E. Hayes, Kenneth Maravilla, Michel Kliot*, David G. Kline, Richard J. Moulton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: Noninvasive observation of degenerating and regenerating peripheral nerves could improve the diagnosis and treatment of nerve injuries. We constructed a novel phased-array radiofrequency coil to permit magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) observation of the sciatic nerve and its target muscles in rats after injury. METHODS: Adult male Lewis rats underwent either crushing (n = 18) or cutting and capping (n = 17) of their right sciatic nerves and then underwent serial MRI. Serial gait track analysis was performed to assess behavioral recovery. Animals from both groups were killed at several time points for histological evaluation of the nerves, with axon counting. RESULTS: Crushed sciatic nerves demonstrated increased T2-weighted signals, followed by signal normalization as axonal regeneration and behavioral recovery occurred. Cut sciatic nerves prevented from regenerating displayed a prolonged phase of increased signal intensity. Acutely denervated muscles exhibited hyperintense T2-weighted signals, which normalized with reinnervation and behavioral recovery. Chronically denervated muscles demonstrated persistently increased T2-weighted signals and atrophy. CONCLUSION: In this study, we demonstrated the ability of MRI to noninvasively monitor injury and recovery in the peripheral nervous system, by demonstrating changes in nerve and muscle that correlated with histological and behavioral evidence of axonal degeneration and regeneration. This study demonstrates the potential of MRI to distinguish traumatic peripheral nerve injuries that recover through axonal regeneration (i.e., axonotmetic grade) from those that do not and therefore require surgical repair (i.e., neurotmetic grade). This diagnostic modality could improve treatment by providing earlier and more accurate diagnoses of nerve damage, as well as reducing the need for exploratory surgery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)199-204
Number of pages6
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Nerve injury
  • Rat
  • Sciatic nerve

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Surgery


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