Radial sensory neurotization of the thumb and index finger for prehension after proximal median and ulnar nerve injuries

Ivica Ducic, A Lee Dellon, David P Bogue
Journal of Reconstructive Microsurgery 2006, 22 (2): 73-8
Proximal median nerve injuries are functionally disabling, secondary to both motor and sensory deficits. Reestablishment of sensation relies on slow axonal regeneration originating from the site of injury after either primary nerve repair or the use of autogenous nerve grafts. This regeneration can take 2 or more years to restore sensation to the hand, depending on injury location. Distal sensory nerve transfers shorten the recovery time by decreasing the required regeneration distance. The authors present two case reports of patients with proximal median nerve injury, who underwent radial sensory nerve transfers to the ulnar digital nerve of the thumb and the radial digital nerve of the index finger. Protective sensation returned to the index and thumb fingertips at 3 months. By 6 months, both patients attained sufficient sensation to permit active lateral key pinch. At 9 months, each patient had moving sensation; and by 14 months, each patient attained proper localization. Successful digital nerve transfers of the dorsal radial sensory nerves in patients with high proximal median nerve injuries return sensation faster than traditional median nerve repairs. Use of this technique will significantly reduce the insensate time in patients with this unfortunate injury.

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