Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New surgery may reverse hand paralysis

Date:
June 15, 2012
Source:
University of California, San Diego Health Sciences
Summary:
A reconstructive neurosurgeon has pioneered a novel technique to restore hand function in patients with spinal cord injury. In a delicate four-hour procedure, he splices together tiny nerve endings, only one millimeter in width, to help restore hand mobility.

Justin M. Brown, MD, reconstructive neurosurgeon at UC San Diego Health System, is one of only a few specialists in the world who have pioneered a novel technique to restore hand function in patients with spinal cord injury. In a delicate four-hour procedure, Brown splices together tiny nerve endings, only one millimeter in width, to help restore hand mobility. Most patients return home 24 hours after surgery.

"Even if a patient appears to have lost total hand function, as long as there is some nerve in the arm or shoulder under the patient's control, some mobility may be regained," said Brown, director of the Neurosurgery Peripheral Nerve Program and co-director of the Center for Neurophysiology and Restorative Neurology at UC San Diego Health System. "With a nerve transfer, the goal is to reverse paralysis. This means achieving functional grasp and release so that patients can eat independently, operate a computer or hold a loved one's hand."

Brown and his team treat hand impairments at cervical level 5 and below. Operating under a microscope, Brown disconnects the damaged nerve and reconnects it to a healthy one. The healthy nerve is taken from underneath the muscles of the upper arm and then connected to a nerve branch that provides finger function. In contrast to muscle transfers, nerve transfers allow whole muscle groups to be restored in the arm without visibly changing the body's anatomy.

"The nerves grow at a rate of 1 millimeter per day," said Brown, who is also founding member and first president of the International Society for Restorative Neurology. "Over a period of six to 12 months, patients can essentially wake up their arms and hands and return to a satisfying level of functionality and improved quality of life."

Brown said that patients occasionally experience temporary weakness where the original healthy nerve is taken. These muscles, however, can recover their original strength. Casting and immobilization is seldom needed after the surgery. He added that the overall result is that multiple hand functions can be restored with a single transplant.

"The recovery of hand function is consistently rated as the highest priority for persons with quadriplegia," said Brown. "While nerve transfers take longer to heal so that axons can regenerate, patients often experience better long-term biomechanical outcomes."

In the United States there are approximately 300,000 people living with spinal cord injuries with 12,000 new injuries occurring each year. More than half of these injuries result in neck-level injures that lead to loss of hand and arm function. Brown said this technique may also be offered in select cases to patients with paralysis as a result of trauma, stroke, or brain injury.

Brown earned his medical degree from the Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk. He completed a surgical internship and neurosurgical residency at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and a peripheral nerve fellowship in the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Washington University School of Medicine. He was formerly co-director of the Peripheral Nerve Center at Washington University in St. Louis.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California, San Diego Health Sciences. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of California, San Diego Health Sciences. "New surgery may reverse hand paralysis." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 June 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120615141657.htm>.
University of California, San Diego Health Sciences. (2012, June 15). New surgery may reverse hand paralysis. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120615141657.htm
University of California, San Diego Health Sciences. "New surgery may reverse hand paralysis." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120615141657.htm (accessed September 23, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Ebola Costs Keep Mounting

Ebola Costs Keep Mounting

Reuters - Business Video Online (Sep. 23, 2014) The WHO has warned up to 20,000 people could be infected with Ebola over the next few weeks. As Sonia Legg reports, the implications for the West African countries suffering from the disease are huge. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Liberia Pleads for Help to Fight Ebola

Liberia Pleads for Help to Fight Ebola

AP (Sep. 22, 2014) Liberia's finance minister is urging the international community to quickly follow through on pledges of cash to battle Ebola. Bodies are piling up in the capital Monrovia as the nation awaits more help. (Sept. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Doctor Says Border Controls Critical

Ebola Doctor Says Border Controls Critical

AP (Sep. 22, 2014) A Florida doctor who helped fight the expanding Ebola outbreak in West Africa says the disease can be stopped, but only if nations quickly step up their response and make border control a priority. (Sept. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Global Ebola Aid Increasing But Critics Say It's Late

Global Ebola Aid Increasing But Critics Say It's Late

Newsy (Sep. 21, 2014) More than 100 tons of medical supplies were sent to West Africa on Saturday, but aid workers say the global response is still sluggish. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins