The omentum has several properties that are advantageous for neuronal sprouting and direction. We have therefore analyzed functional recovery following transection of rat sciatic nerve using omental graft to bridge the nerve defect. In group 1, a 25-30-mm nerve defect was produced and bridged with omental graft, whereas in group 2, an end-to-end repair was performed. The sciatic function index (SFI) was assessed at 2-week intervals until 8 weeks after surgery. Functional recovery was faster in group 1 than in group 2. After 8 weeks, SFI was improved significantly from -100% to -45% (+/- -4%) in group 1 (P < 0.001) compared to -72% +/- -2% in group 2 (n = 10). Histologically, the omental graft contained more newly developed nerve fibers and less scar tissue than the end-to-end repair. Thus, omental graft appears to improve directional growth of regenerating axon sprouts and may be a means of treating peripheral nerve injury. (C) 2002 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.