The integration of ultrasound-assisted liposuction with traditional suction-assisted lipoplasty has extended the role of liposuction in body contouring. Although there are ample data regarding the effects of ultrasound on peripheral nerves from studies with the Cavitron ultrasound surgical aspirator, there is little information concerning the effects of modern ultrasound body contouring equipment on neural tissue. This study was designed to evaluate the functional and histologic effects of ultrasound energy on rat peripheral nerves (sciatic nerves) using a commonly-used ultrasound-assisted liposuction generator. After the application of ultrasound to exposed rat sciatic nerves, operative magnification was used to assess any visible injury. The sciatic function index was serially measured to quantify immediate and long-term functional effects on the nerves. Our results showed immediate visible injury using low amplitude settings (level 6), but no functional evidence of injury until much higher settings were used (level 9). All animals in the groups with initial functional impairment had returned to normal or near-normal function at completion of the study (51 days). Histologic examination revealed no evidence of damage in the low amplitude groups. Histologic analysis of the high amplitude groups displayed diffuse infiltration of the nerve, with foamy histiocytes and an increased number of mast cells, consistent with remote neural injury followed by myelin breakdown and repair.
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