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Traumatic peripheral nerve injuries: a classification proposal.

BACKGROUND: Peripheral nerve injuries (PNIs) include several conditions in which one or more peripheral nerves are damaged. Trauma is one of the most common causes of PNIs and young people are particularly affected. They have a significant impact on patients' quality of life and on the healthcare system, while timing and type of surgical treatment are of the utmost importance to guarantee the most favorable functional recovery. To date, several different classifications of PNIs have been proposed, most of them focusing on just one or few aspects of these complex conditions, such as type of injury, anatomic situation, or prognostic factors. Current classifications do not enable us to have a complete view of this pathology, which includes diagnosis, treatment choice, and possible outcomes. This fragmentation sometimes leads to an ambiguous definition of PNIs and the impossibility of exchanging crucial information between different physicians and healthcare structures, which can create confusion in the choice of therapeutic strategies and timing of surgery.

MATERIALS: The authors retrospectively analyzed a group of 24 patients treated in their center and applied a new classification for PNI injuries. They chose (a) five injury-related factors, namely nerve involved, lesion site, nerve type (whether motor, sensory or mixed), surrounding tissues (whether soft tissues were involved or not), and lesion type-whether partial/in continuity or complete. An alphanumeric code was applied to each of these classes, and (b) four prognostic codes, related to age, timing, techniques, and comorbidities.

RESULTS: An alphanumeric code was produced, similar to that used in the AO classification of fractures.

CONCLUSIONS: The authors propose this novel classification for PNIs, with the main advantage to allow physicians to easily understand the characteristics of nerve lesions, severity, possibility of spontaneous recovery, onset of early complications, need for surgical treatment, and the best surgical approach.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: according to the Oxford 2011 level of evidence, level 2.

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