The purpose of this study was to investigate gait-pattern changes after complete tibial nerve lesion in the cat and to observe whether nerve repair could reverse some of the changes. In six cats, a 5-cm segment of the tibial nerve was transected. The nerve gap was then repaired with nerve autograft in three animals and was unrepaired in three as controls. The walking patterns of the cats were videotaped, and the hip, knee ankle, and metatarsophalangeal joint angles were measured at the beginnings of the F, E1,E2 and E3 phases of the step cycle. Two weeks after surgery abnormal gait patterns were observed, and four gait parameters (E3, Hip, E3 Ankle, E3-M-P, and F.Ankle) were found to be statistically significantly different from normal. Six months after surgery the nerve-graft group had gait-parameter values approaching normal while the control group showed no measurable improvement. Correspondingly, electrophysiologic testing revealed considerable nerve regeneration in the nerve graft group but not in the control group. It was concluded that these gait parameters can be used as valid functional indices to evaluate the degree of tibial nerve recovery in the cat model.
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