Objective To describe denervation features of facial musculature following facial nerve injury in a rodent model.
Methods Six Wistar-Hannover rats underwent unilateral transection and immediate repair of the facial nerve. After 8 weeks, muscular bundles consisting of dilator naris and levator labii superioris from both sides were analyzed for mean muscle cell diameter and the percentage of muscle cell cross-sectional area using image processing software. The atrophic features of facial muscles were quantified and compared with the contralateral, healthy side of the face.
Results Weekly postoperative whisking assessment demonstrated the anticipated course of recovery. We observed significant differences between the normal side and the manipulated side, respectively, in the percentage of muscle specimen cross-sectional area attributable to muscle cell profiles (57% vs 29%; P = .006) and total fiber counts (1346 vs 794; P = .02). The mean cross-sectional area of individual muscle fibers was higher on the normal side (1129 vs 928 μm2; P = .39); however, this difference was statistically nonsignificant.
Conclusion The objective, quantitative measures of muscle microstructure used in this report provide a valuable point of comparison for whisking function and electrophysiologic measures and can be used in future studies to assess muscle atrophic features associated with facial nerve injury and repair techniques.