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JAAOS study highlights success of nerve transfer surgery
Date:7/31/2012

Because many physicians are unaware of nerve transfer surgery, some patients suffer long-term impairment from nerve injuries that could have been fixed.

A study in the August issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (JAAOS) by Hospital for Special Surgery researchers aims to raise awareness of this type of surgery among health care providers. In recent years, great strides have been made in nerve transfer surgery, allowing many patients with a nerve injury in their upper extremity to have a remarkable recovery and improved functional outcomes.

"It's obvious that many physicians don't know what can be done, because often patients are referred too long after their injury. If we get these patients late, any nerve surgery is less likely to work," said Steve K. Lee, M.D., director of Research at the Center for Brachial Plexus and Traumatic Nerve Injury at Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS), lead author of the study. "A big thrust of this paper is to get the information out there that we need to see these patients earlier for better outcomes."

Nerve injuries can be caused by a variety of events, including car and motorcycle accidents, sporting accidents, falls from heights such as construction accidents, and surgeries for head and neck cancer. Once a nerve is cut from a muscle, it has to be reinnervated within about 18 months before the muscle atrophies. Since nerves only regenerate one millimeter per day, sometimes they cannot regenerate and reach the muscle before it wastes away.

"It has been shown that if you do nerve reconstruction work and surgery before six months after a nerve is severed, then patients do far better," said Dr. Lee, who is also associate professor of Orthopedic Surgery at the Weill Cornell Medical College and associate attending orthopedic surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery. "If it has been more than 18 months, even if the nerve regeneration length is two centim
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Contact: Phyllis Fisher
fisherp@hss.edu
212-606-1724
Hospital for Special Surgery
Source:Eurekalert  

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JAAOS study highlights success of nerve transfer surgery
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