Abstract Functional and morphological changes of the rat sciatic nerve after local hyperthermia (30 min, 45°C) and crush treatment were compared. After hyperthermic injury nerve function loss developed in a time period of about 7 h. Nerve crush led to an immediate loss of nerve function. Nerve function loss was assessed by a motor and a sensory function test. Recovery from function loss took place in both treatment groups and was complete in 4–5 weeks. Early (within 8 h post-treatment) histopathological changes in the nerve after heating included edema, possible blood stasis and changes in the blood vessel wall, like swelling of the media. During this period some axonal changes were observed. Immediate after crushing axons were severly damaged, while many blood vessels remained normal. Within one week after both treatments, degeneration of axons and myelin was observed at the site and distal from the site of the lesion (Wallerian degeneration). Three weeks after treatment a major part of the axons had regenerated and remyelinated. Vascular changes at the site of lesion could still be observed in the heat-treated nerves. Twelve weeks after both treatments, blood vessels appeared to be normal again. Morphometrical analysis of the treated nerves confirmed the histological observations. Three and 12 weeks after treatment average axon diameters were significant smaller and average myelin sheaths were significant thinner compared to untreated nerves. These parameters did not differ significantly when the two treatment groups were compared.