Iatrogenic nerve injuries: prevalence, diagnosis and treatment

Gregor Antoniadis, Thomas Kretschmer, Maria Teresa Pedro, Ralph W König, Christian P G Heinen, Hans-Peter Richter
Deutsches Ärzteblatt International 2014 April 18, 111 (16): 273-9

BACKGROUND: Iatrogenic nerve injuries can result from direct surgical trauma, mechanical stress on a nerve due to faulty positioning during anesthesia, the injection of neurotoxic substances into a nerve, and other mechanisms. Treating physicians should know the risk factors and the procedure to be followed when an iatrogenic nerve injury arises.

METHOD: This review is based on pertinent articles retrieved by a selective search in PubMed and on the authors' own data from the years 1990-2012.

RESULTS: In large-scale studies, 25% of sciatic nerve lesions that required treatment were iatrogenic, as were 60% of femoral nerve lesions and 94% of accessory nerve lesions. Osteosyntheses, osteotomies, arthrodeses, lymph node biopsies in the posterior triangle of the neck, carpal tunnel operations, and procedures on the wrist and knee were common settings for iatrogenic nerve injury. 340 patients underwent surgery for iatrogenic nerve injuries over a 23-year period in the District Hospital of Günzburg (Neurosurgical Department of the University of Ulm). In a study published by the authors in 2001, 17.4% of the traumatic nerve lesions treated were iatrogenic. 94% of iatrogenic nerve injuries occurred during surgical procedures.

CONCLUSION: A thorough knowledge of the anatomy of the vulnerable nerves and of variants in their course can lessen the risk of iatrogenic nerve injury. When such injuries arise, early diagnosis and planning of further management are the main determinants of outcome. If adequate nerve regeneration does not occur, surgical revision should optimally be performed 3 to 4 months after the injury, and 6 months afterward at the latest. On the other hand, if postoperative high resolution ultrasound reveals either complete transection of the nerve or a neuroma in continuity, surgery should be performed without any further delay. If the surgeon becomes aware of a nerve transection during the initial procedure, then either immediate end-to-end suturing or early secondary management after three weeks is indicated.

Full Text Links

Find Full Text Links for this Article


You are not logged in. Sign Up or Log In to join the discussion.

Related Papers

Remove bar
Read by QxMD icon Read

Save your favorite articles in one place with a free QxMD account.


Search Tips

Use Boolean operators: AND/OR

diabetic AND foot
diabetes OR diabetic

Exclude a word using the 'minus' sign

Virchow -triad

Use Parentheses

water AND (cup OR glass)

Add an asterisk (*) at end of a word to include word stems

Neuro* will search for Neurology, Neuroscientist, Neurological, and so on

Use quotes to search for an exact phrase

"primary prevention of cancer"
(heart or cardiac or cardio*) AND arrest -"American Heart Association"