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In some situations, a nerve graft may be needed to repair the injured part of a nerve in a way that allows for a better recovery.

Overview

When a part of a healthy nerve is injured and cannot recover on its own, a nerve graft is sometimes required to repair the injured segment an allow that nerve to recover. This procedure involves talking a donor nerve, which is typically a sensory nerve to a less important area of the body, and using it to bridge the gap between two healthy regions of the injured nerve. The injured nerve can then grow through this new bridge and into the distal part of the nerve and finally back to the original target, restoring that function.

Physicians at the Mass General Paralysis Center will pick nerves that are considered to provide a less valuable function than the function that has been lost. The sural nerve is located in the leg and provides feeling to the outside of the foot and the medial antebrachial cutaneous nerve is in the arm and provides feeling to the skin near the elbow. These are two common examples of nerves that are used for grafts.

After a nerve graft, a patient will experience some numbness in the region of the donor nerve. The numb area will gradually become smaller over the course of several years.

In some cases, where recovery is not anticipated for an extended period or there is a large region of damage, a nerve transfer may be a better option.

The Mass General Paralysis Center is a multidisciplinary center featuring physicians and surgeons from a variety of service lines including Neurosurgery, Neurology, Radiology, OrthopaedicsPlastic Surgery and more. Our doctors work together to determine a treatment option that can address each patient’s unique situation. The Paralysis Center opened in 2018 and is led by Justin Brown, MD.