Femoral neuropathy secondary to the use of a self-retaining retractor. Report of three cases and review of the literature

R C Brasch, A J Bufo, P F Kreienberg, G P Johnson
Diseases of the Colon and Rectum 1995, 38 (10): 1115-8

PURPOSE: Three recent cases of femoral neuropathy at our institution following colorectal surgery have been ascribed to the use of the self-retaining Bookwalter retractor. The pathophysiology of neural injury includes compression, stretch, transection, ligation, iliopsoas hematoma, ischemia, and cement encapsulation. The aim of this study is to provide a comprehensive review of femoral nerve anatomy and mechanism of retractor injury.

METHODS: The relationship of the femoral nerve to the lateral blade of the Bookwalter retractor was evaluated during colorectal surgery and in cadaveric dissections.

RESULTS: The lateral blade of the self-retaining retractor was observed to either compress or impinge the intrapelvic portion of the femoral nerve.

CONCLUSION: The incidence of postoperative femoral neuropathy is likely underestimated because a majority of cases are self-limited. This debilitating iatrogenic injury can be prevented with a thorough understanding of femoral nerve anatomy and careful placement of self-retaining retractor blades.

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