Tim Kornfeld, Peter M. Vogt and Christine Radtke contributed equally to this work.
Artificial and non-artificial nerve grafts are the gold standard in peripheral nerve reconstruction in cases with extensive loss of nerve tissue, particularly where a direct end-to-end suture or an autologous nerve graft is inauspicious. Different materials are marketed and approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for peripheral nerve graft reconstruction. The most frequently used materials are collagen and poly(DL-lactide-ε-caprolactone). Only one human nerve allograft is listed for peripheral nerve reconstruction by the FDA. All marketed nerve grafts are able to demonstrate sufficient nerve regeneration over small distances not exceeding 3.0 cm. A key question in the field is whether nerve reconstruction on large defect lengths extending 4.0 cm or more is possible. This review gives a summary of current clinical and experimental approaches in peripheral nerve surgery using artificial and non-artificial nerve grafts in short and long distance nerve defects. Strategies to extend nerve graft lengths for long nerve defects, such as enhancing axonal regeneration, include the additional application of Schwann cells, mesenchymal stem cells or supporting co-factors like growth factors on defect sizes between 4.0 and 8.0 cm.