Plastic Surgery: Nerve Repair
Nerves form a sort of highway between the brain and other parts of the body, transporting messages to and from the brain. Sensory nerves carry messages to the brain signaling pain, pressure and temperature. Motor nerves send signals from the brain to the muscles to initiate and continue movement. Nerves are wrapped in a protective sheath like a cable wire.
What occurs when the nerve is injured?
Nerves can become damaged by pressure, stretching or cutting. An injured nerve may stop transmitting signals, immobilizing the area or prohibiting it from responding to pain, pressure and temperature. If the nerve has been damaged but the protective sheath was not cut, the nerve may attach itself to a muscle or sensory receptor. When the nerve is cut, all sensations are stopped from reaching it and it may die. When both the insulation and the nerve have been cut and the nerve is not repaired, a neuroma or nerve scar may grow at the end of the laceration. The neuroma can be very painful and may cause an electrical shock sensation.
How is a nerve injury treated?
Your plastic surgeon will repair a lacerated nerve by sewing the insulated part of the nerve together, thereby allowing the nerve to heal and work again. In most cases, a nerve will take three to four weeks to heal after an injury. Depending on your age and health condition, the nerve will usually grow approximately one inch every month. A feeling of “pins and needles” in the fingertips would be common in this process, and it may take up to a year if normal sensation is restored.
What is my recovery time and what should I expect with nerve repair?
If you have injured a sensory nerve, you will need to be very careful since you may not have normal sensation in the affected area and could easily cause further harm. Your nerve will heal based on the treatment and your age and health. Your hand surgeon may recommend therapy to keep your muscles and joints moving, preventing stiffness. The rehabilitation department at The Centre is staffed by highly skilled, professionally trained therapists who offer a unique variety of treatment options to help patients return to their normal routines as quickly and comfortably as possible. For more information on reconstructive hand surgery, please contact our specialized staff at The Centre for Working Hands to schedule your consultation.