Question: I have heard that there are nerve transplants for people that are partially paralyzed. What can you tell me about this?

Answer: There are advances in surgery to help patients with nerve damage causing limb paralysis. These surgeries are for peripheral nerve injuries that cause loss of strength or feeling in your arm, hand or leg. These surgeries do not help paralysis from spinal cord injuries or stroke.

More than 500 new patients each year suffer damage to these type of nerves. This may be from trauma, car accidents or tumor-removal surgery. There are 8,000 infants born each year with damage to the shoulder and arm that may benefit. Even loss of erectile function after prostate surgery may be helped.

There are only a handful of surgeons doing this type of work around the country. This includes Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

The surgery works best if it is done within six months of the original injury. Many patients are never referred because doctors typically wait and see if the nerve returns on its own. However, these patients should be carefully monitored during the first six months and possibly referred.

20 to 30% of the patients do not improve after the surgery. However, if successful, the patient can expect 50-80% improvement in the injured limb. You may be able to move an elbow or part of your hand when you couldn't before. This may be the difference between dressing yourself and needing help.

There are four types of surgery being used. The first is a nerve transplant, which is the most common. Nerves are taken from a cadaver or live donor and transplanted to the patient to bridge long gaps in injured nerves. The patient must take immuno-suppressant drugs after the surgery.

A second type of surgery is a nerve transfer. A small branch of a healthy nerve is rerouted to a paralyzed muscle. The goal is for the branch to grow into the paralyzed muscle restoring function.

The third type of surgery is a nerve graft. Doctors take a non-essential nerve from the patient, such as along the side of the ankle. This nerve is then grafted to an injured nerve to reduce the gap.

Lastly, nerve tubes are used to bridge short gaps in broken nerves. They serve as a conduit through which the patient's own nerve can grow. The tube is then absorbed back into the body once the nerve recovers. The tubes are only good for short gaps in broken nerves.

Doctor of chiropractic study the nervous system extensively. We are effective at treating pinched nerves and providing relief. However, if your nerve is severed with subsequent paralysis, your best treatment lies with one of these surgeons specializing in the latest techniques.

Copyright © 2008 - Konicki Schumacher Chiropractic. All rights reserved.

Dr. Tom Konicki is a board certified chiropractic orthopedist and has practiced for many years in South Dayton. You can reach him at or mail your questions to Ask the Chiropractor, 2165 Miamisburg-Centerville Road, Dayton, Ohio 45459.