Surgical treatment of nerve lesions in continuity remains difficult, even in the most experienced hands. The regenerative potential of those injuries can be evaluated by intraoperative electrophysiological studies and/or intraneural dissection. The present study examines the value of intraoperative high-frequency ultrasound as an imaging tool for decision making in the management of traumatic nerve lesions in continuity.
Intraoperative high-frequency ultrasound was applied to 19 traumatic or iatrogenic nerve lesions of differing extents. The information obtained was correlated with intraoperative electrophysiological, microsurgical intraneural dissection, and histopathological findings in resected nerve segments.
The intraoperative application of high-resolution, high-frequency ultrasound enabled morphological examination of nerve lesions in continuity, with good image quality. The assessment of the severity of the underlying nerve injury matched perfectly with the judgment obtained from intraoperative electrophysiological studies. Both intraneural nerve dissection and neuropathological examination of the resected nerve segments confirmed the sonographic findings. In addition, intraoperative ultrasound proved to be very time efficient.
With intraoperative ultrasound, the extent of traumatic peripheral nerve lesions can be examined morphologically for the first time. It is a promising, noninvasive method that seems capable of assessing the type (intraneural/perineural) and grade of nerve fibrosis. Therefore, in combination with intraoperative neurophysiological studies, intraoperative high-resolution ultrasound may represent a major tool for noninvasive assessment of the regenerative potential of a nerve lesion.