Peripheral Nerve Injuries
A peripheral nerve injury is a devastating injury. Nerves supply feeling and allow muscles to work by sending messages to and from the brain. This helps you to do things like move and feel. If a nerve is cut, you will lose the feeling to the particular area of skin that the nerve supplies, and the muscles that the nerve supplies will be paralysed resulting in loss of function and weakness. A peripheral nerve injury usually occurs due to a deep laceration.
The three main nerves that supply the arm and hand are the median nerve, ulnar nerve and the radial nerve. These nerves are responsible for controlling the functions of sensation, movement and motor coordination in the arm and hand. Peripheral nerve injuries may range from mild to severe. Signs and symptoms of peripheral nerve injuries include pain, burning sensation, tingling, loss of sensation in the affected area and muscle weakness or paralysis.
Laceration of peripheral nerves requires surgical repair. This involves microsurgery and is done with magnification, special instruments and very small stitches. In some cases, the portion of the damaged nerve will be removed, and the orthopaedic surgeon will reconnect the ends of the healthy nerve together. A piece of a nerve may need to be taken from another part of your body, called a nerve graft, and be implanted to repair the damaged nerve. If you do have a peripheral nerve injury, you should ensure that your surgeon has been trained in microsurgical techniques.
The recovery of nerves after the repair is very seldom complete. Feeling usually does come back, but recovery of strength is less predictable. There is usually some weakness that persists, but this does depend on the particular nerve that is injured. Recovery is a very long process and may take months to years.