A model for the assessment of sensory recovery of experimental skin grafts

William G. Williams, Adrian Cameron, Martin C. Robson, David N. Herndon, Linda G. Phillips

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The return of sensation to skin grafts is often suboptimal. Although the reinnervation of skin grafts has been examined by a number of authors during the past century, studies in humans have left a number of unanswered issues, whereas animal studies have been largely confined to histological work and a few electrophysiological studies. Based on knowledge that rats exhibit a reflexive flick of the back skin in response to stimulation, the authors hypothesized that it should be possible to develop a noninvasive model for assessing return of sensation in experimental skin grafts. Full-thickness skin grafts were created, one per animal, on the dorsa of male Sprague-Dawley rats. Sensory testing was performed using a hand-held pinprick device designed to deliver a stimulus of reproducible force. A positive response was observed as a flick of the dorsal skin - a very reliable reflex involving the cutaneus trunci muscle. The stimulus was delivered to each of 25 sectors of the graff on days 9, 13, 16, 20, 40, 60, and 110 postoperatively. Results were analyzed regarding the percentage of grafts responding at each time point as well as the topographical pattern of sensory return. Evidence of sensation was first detected at day 13 at the margins of the skin grafts and then progressed centrally until homogenous reinnervation (94% of the graff surface) was observed at day 40 and was maintained through the end of the study. Growth Associated Protein (GAP)-43 immunostaining was used to document reinnervation of the skin grafts histologically.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)397-404
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of plastic surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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