When is Nerve Repair Needed?

When an injury is sustained to the nerves, it can stop signals to and from the brain causing the muscles not to work properly and a loss of feeling in the injured area. To repair the injury, surgery is performed to remove the injured part of the nerve and then reconnect the ends of the nerves.

Nerves are part of the “electrical wiring” system that sends signals between the brain and rest of the body telling the muscles to move and when to feel pain, pressure and temperature. The nerves are protected by a ring of tissue called axons. The nerves can be injured, cutting both the nerve and axon.

“Oftentimes when lacerations are sustained to the fingers, wrist and arm, whether it be just a small cut or a more traumatic mechanism, nerves and other tendons can be lacerated and are injured in that situation,” says Michael D. Riggenbach, M.D.

A nerve injury can cause:

  • Pain
  • Loss of muscle control
  • Weakness
  • Sensitivity
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Burning

What Are the Treatment Options for a Nerve Injury?

Most often, the treatment for a nerve injury is nerve repair surgery because if it is left untreated, the growing nerve fibers can form a painful nerve scar.

“Nerve repair is simply freshening up the end of the nerve and suturing the ends of the nerve back together to allow for repair,” says Dr. Riggenbach.

During surgery, the damaged part of the axon around both ends is removed. Then, the axons are sewn together. Overtime, the nerves will grow together and restore nerve function. The recovery time depends on the level of the injury.

“Depending on the level or injury you can expect potentially rapid recovery over the course of three to four months, potentially to a year, to 16 to 18 months,” Dr. Riggenbach says. “It depends on what level of injury you sustained and how far away that injury is from the structure that you’re looking to have function in.”