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A Closer Look at Nerve Transfers

A Closer Look at Nerve Transfers

Sometimes a nerve is injured so severely that the muscle it controls loses function and sensation. This type of nerve damage was historically difficult to treat, and doctors managed nerve damage with medications designed to treat neuropathic issues with limited success.  

Thankfully, advances in medical and surgical technology mean there’s now a better way to address severe nerve damage: nerve transfers. This cutting-edge surgical technique involves moving working nerves from one area of the body to muscles that have lost functionality. 

This type of surgery requires specialized training and experience in peripheral nerve surgery and microsurgery. At Anthony Echo M.D., with two offices in Houston, Texas, our board-certified surgeon is one of the few surgeons trained and experienced in performing nerve transfers. Here’s a closer look at how they work. 

Nerve transfer surgery 101

During nerve transfer surgery, Dr. Echo moves a working, healthy motor nerve, or nerve that works a muscle, from a functioning but expendable muscle, like a rib muscle, to the injured nerve. This is done to help the more important muscle work again.  

During the surgery, which is typically performed as an outpatient procedure, Dr. Echo redirects the healthy, functioning nerve to the nonworking nerve, restoring its function. The surgery is performed under general anesthesia, but most patients return home the same day.

It takes some time for the transferred nerve to adapt to the new target muscle, and you may need to attend physical therapy to re-learn how to use the affected muscle. At first, you may need to make movements associated with the donor muscle to work the target muscle, but over time these movements become automatic.    

Conditions nerve transfers treat

Nerve transfer surgery is particularly useful when the nerve injury in the upper arm/neck or the upper thigh where the standard nerve recovery is not expected to produce any adequate recovery due to the distance away from the affected muscle group. Some conditions this surgery can treat include: 

This list is not comprehensive, as treatment is determined on a case-by-case basis. If you’re struggling with severe nerve damage that’s limited your muscle function, it’s best to discuss your unique case with Dr. Echo to learn whether a nerve transfer can help.

Dr. Echo completes a comprehensive exam, reviews your symptoms, and discusses the underlying cause of your nerve damage before recommending a nerve transfer. He also examines previous diagnostic tests and/or orders additional testing to better understand the extent of your condition. 

Benefits of nerve transfer surgery

Patients receiving nerve transfer surgery enjoy many benefits, including:

To learn more about nerve transfers and whether you’re a candidate, contact the Anthony Echo, M.D. office in Houston, Texas, most convenient to you. You can also request a consultation online now.

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