The purpose of this study was to determine which parameters were the best measure of nerve regeneration, assuming that the sciatic functional index (SFI) represented the 'gold standard.' Three different sciatic functional indexes and 11 commonly used electrophysiologic and morphologic indicators of regeneration were all determined in 24 rats 12 weeks after one of three lesions was created in the sciatic nerve. With linear regression analysis, only fiber/axon diameter ratio (D/d) and myelin thickness/axon diameter ratio showed statistically significant correlations with sciatic functional index (r = 0.55 and 0.53, respectively). The other 11 parameters had poorer correlation. Therefore, if sciatic functional index is the best measure of comprehensive nerve function, then other parameters are not. It is probable that each parameter measures some different component of the regeneration process. A stepwise multiple linear regression analysis produced a model that included D/d, nerve conduction velocity, and nerve action potential amplitude that gave a slightly better correlation (r = 0.67). The relatively poor correlation between sciatic functional index and the other parameters of nerve function indicates that all nerve regeneration studies must be interpreted carefully before comparisons are made. Furthermore, the best measure of nerve function remains unproved or undiscovered in the experimental animal.
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