A brief history of surgery for peripheral nerve sheath tumors

Ciaran J. Powers M.D., Ph.D. and Allan H. Friedman M.D.
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  • Division of Neurosurgery, Department of Surgery, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina
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✓The authors present a brief and selective history of surgery for peripheral nerve tumors to illustrate how the current understanding of the nature of disease influences the choice of surgical intervention. There was very little understanding of the anatomy and function of peripheral nerves in ancient times; consequently, surgical treatments for peripheral nerve tumors were based on the writings of authorities. The confusion between traumatic neuromas and genuine nerve sheath tumors coupled with the belief that manipulation of a peripheral nerve might be lethal to the patient stifled the development of surgical techniques for the management of nerve tumors in the 18th and 19th centuries. It was not until the 20th century, with an increased understanding of the microscopic anatomy of nerve sheath tumors, that efficacious surgical treatments for these diseases were developed. Continued advances in the understanding of the biology of these tumors will continue to impact their surgical management.

Abbreviations used in this paper:

NF1 = neurofibromatosis Type 1; PNST = peripheral nerve sheath tumor.

✓The authors present a brief and selective history of surgery for peripheral nerve tumors to illustrate how the current understanding of the nature of disease influences the choice of surgical intervention. There was very little understanding of the anatomy and function of peripheral nerves in ancient times; consequently, surgical treatments for peripheral nerve tumors were based on the writings of authorities. The confusion between traumatic neuromas and genuine nerve sheath tumors coupled with the belief that manipulation of a peripheral nerve might be lethal to the patient stifled the development of surgical techniques for the management of nerve tumors in the 18th and 19th centuries. It was not until the 20th century, with an increased understanding of the microscopic anatomy of nerve sheath tumors, that efficacious surgical treatments for these diseases were developed. Continued advances in the understanding of the biology of these tumors will continue to impact their surgical management.

Abbreviations used in this paper:

NF1 = neurofibromatosis Type 1; PNST = peripheral nerve sheath tumor.

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