Tourniquet compression as a method to enhance nerve regeneration in a rat model was studied. One hand limb of each rat was compressed with a mini-tourniquet set at 300 mmHg. The other hind limb without tourniquet compression served as a control. The sciatic nerves in both hind limbs were then crushed with pliers at three different time periods following tourniquet release. Axonal regeneration distances were measured microscopically by the “pinched reflex test.” The authors found that tourniquet compression for 120 minutes increased the distance of axonal regeneration when there was a delay of either 3 days or 6 days from the time of tourniquet inflation to the time of the crush insult.
The conclusions of this study raise the possibility of transient nerve compression as a method of stimulating axonal regeneration. Other nerve stimuli have been previously reported; pulsed electromagnetic fields (Sisken et al, Brain Research 485: 309-316, 1989) and vibration (Dahlin et al., J Hand Surg 17A: 858-861, 1992). The mechanisms of action of these non-invasive “conditioning” insults are not well understood. Further studies regarding clinical applicability are anticipated.