Sciatic nerve injuries cause debilitating functional impairment, particularly when the injury mechanism and level preclude reconstruction with primary grafting. The purpose of this study was to demonstrate the anatomical feasibility of nerve transfers from the distal femoral nerve terminal branches to the tibial nerve and to detail the successful restoration of tibial function using the described nerve transfers.
Six cadaveric legs were dissected for anatomical analysis and the development of tension-free nerve transfers from femoral nerve branches to the tibial nerve. In 2 patients with complete tibial and common peroneal nerve palsies following sciatic nerve injury, terminal branches of the femoral nerve supplying the vastus medialis and vastus lateralis muscles were transferred to the medial and lateral gastrocnemius branches of the tibial nerve. Distal sensory transfer of the saphenous nerve to the sural nerve was also performed. Patients were followed up for lower-extremity motor and sensory recovery up to 18 months postoperatively.
Consistent branching patterns and anatomical landmarks were present in all dissection specimens, allowing for reliable identification, neurolysis, and coaptation of donor femoral and saphenous nerve branches to the recipients. Clinically, the patients obtained Medical Research Council Grade 3 and 3+ plantar flexion by 18 months postoperatively. Improved strength was accompanied by improved ambulation in both patients and by a return to competitive sports in 1 patient. Sensory recovery was demonstrated by an advancing Tinel sign in both patients.
This study illustrates the clinical success and anatomical feasibility of femoral nerve to tibial nerve transfers after proximal sciatic nerve injury.