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Techniques Of Peripheral Nerve Repair

L. B. Dahlin

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Nerve injuries extend from simple nerve compression lesions to complete nerve injuries and severe lacerations of the nerve trunks. A specific problem is brachial plexus injuries where nerve roots can be ruptured, or even avulsed from the spinal cord, by traction. An early and correct diagnosis of a nerve injury is important. A thorough knowledge of the anatomy of the peripheral nerve trunk as well as of basic neurobiological alterations in neurons and Schwann cells induced by the injury are crucial for the surgeon in making adequate decisions on how to repair and reconstruct nerves. The technique of peripheral nerve repair includes four important steps (preparation of nerve end, approximation, coaptation and maintenance). Nerves are usually repaired primarily with sutures applied in the different tissue components, but various tubes are available. Nerve grafts and nerve transfers are alternatives when the injury induces a nerve defect. Timing of nerve repair is essential. An early repair is preferable since it is advantageous for neurobiological reasons. Postoperative rehabilitation, utilising the patients' own coping strategies, with evaluation of outcome are additional important steps in treatment of peripheral nerve injuries. In the rehabilitation phase adequate handling of pain, allodynia and cold intolerance are emphasised.