Microneurovascular allotransplantation of the canine tongue

Bruce H. Haughey, James C. Beggs, Jeongpyo Bong, Eric M. Genden, Allyson Buckner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Introductions: Reconstruction of the tongue with existing methods of tissue transfer often leaves glossectomy patients with significant deficits in speech and swallowing. The critical role of the tongue is implied by its unique structure and function. This paper reports the development of an animal model of hemitongue allotransplantation and documents functional and anatomic outcomes of this procedure. Methods: Ten pairs of unmatched dogs underwent reciprocal exchange of the left hemitongue with microneurovascular replantation. The unoperated hemitongue acted as the control. Under cyclosporine immunosuppression, animals surviving long term underwent clinical observation, before electromyography, force transduction studies, and histological evaluation being euthanized. Results: Five animals survived between 6 and 13 months for long-term evaluation. The remaining group were euthanized because of or died of overwhelming infection or uncontrollable transplant rejection. The latter sometimes resulted from difficulty in the delivery of the cyclosporine. Clinical recovery of tongue function was observed, as well as resumption of motor unit potential activity on electromyography. Contractile force recovery of the transplanted tongue averaged 68% of control (range, 47%-97%), and histological study of the hypoglossal and lingual nerves demonstrated anatomic evidence of reinnervation. Preservation of muscle, mucosal, and stromal ultrastructure was seen with light microscopy of the transplanted tongue. Conclusions: Allotransplantation of the hemitongue and associated neurovascular apparatus is possible in a large mammalian model, with long-term survival of tissue being accompanied by partial recovery of contractile properties. Anatomical and clinical evidence also points to sensory recovery. These data support the future possibility of employing a similar technique in glossectomy patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1461-1470
Number of pages10
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1999


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