When all muscle function in lost, nerve transfer surgery may be recommended to restore muscle function and sensation to the injured area.
“A nerve transfer procedure is a generic term we use to describe a surgical procedure where you take a excessive nerve, or a redundant nerve, and transfer it a nerve that may not be functioning,” says Dr. Riggenbach.
The extra nerve is typically transferred from outside of the level of the nerve or outside the zone of the injury . Typically, a nerve transfer is highly successful, but it can can take between 12 and 18 months to fully recover.
“While you’re waiting for the nerve to recover, oftentimes we’ll enroll you in therapy with an occupational hand therapist,” explains Dr. Riggenbach. “[The therapist] works with your range of motion, strengthening and trying to recruit and incorporate different nerves and muscles that have been incorporated in the nerve transfer procedure so you’re not just waiting for the nerve to recover.”