Neurology Central

Nerve transfer surgery restores hand and arm function

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A novel surgical technique that connects functioning nerves with injured nerves to restore power in paralyzed muscles – known as nerve transfer surgery – has enabled 13 young adults with tetraplegia to feed themselves, hold a drink, brush their teeth and write.

The results of the case series using this technique have been published in The Lancet.

Upper limb function has traditionally been reconstructed using tendon transfer surgery, where muscles that still work but are designed for another function are surgically re-sited to do the work of paralyzed muscles. Nerve transfers in contrast allow the direct reanimation of the paralyzed muscle itself.

The study recruited 16 young adults with an average age of 27 who had traumatic, early (>18 months post injury) spinal cord injury to the neck and who were referred for restoration of function in the upper limb. Most of these injuries were a result of motor vehicle accidences or sport injuries.

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