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Kim J. Burchiel, Timothy J. Johans and Jose Ochoa

✓ Pain following suspected nerve injury was comprehensively evaluated with detailed examination including history', neurological evaluation, electrodiagnostic studies, quantitative sensory testing, thermography, anesthetic agents, and sympathetic nerve blocks. Forty-two surgically treated patients fell into four discrete groups: Group 1 patients had distal sensory neuromas treated by excision of the neuroma and reimplantation of the proximal nerve into muscle or bone marrow; Group 2 patients had suspected distal sensory neuromas in which the involved nerve was sectioned proximal to the injury site and reimplanted; Group 3 patients had proximal in-continuity neuromas of major sensorimotor nerves treated by external neurolysis; and Group 4 patients had proximal major sensorimotor nerve injuries at points of anatomical entrapment treated by external neurolysis and transposition, if possible. Patient follow-up monitoring from 2 to 32 months (average 11 months) was possible in 40 (95%) of 42 patients. Surgical success was defined as 50% or greater improvement in pain using the Visual Analog Scale or pain relief subjectively rated as either good or excellent, without postoperative narcotic usage. Overall, 16 (40%) of 40 patients met those criteria. Success rates varied as follows: 44% in 18 Group 1 patients, 40% in 10 Group 2 patients, 0% in five Group 3 patients, and 57% in seven Group 4 patients. Twelve (30%) of 40 patients were employed both pre- and postoperatively.

It is concluded that: 1) neuroma excision, neurectomy, and nerve release for injury-related pain of peripheral nerve origin yield substantial subjective improvement in a minority of patients; 2) external neurolysis of proximal mixed nerves is ineffective in relieving pain; 3) surgically proving the existence of a neuroma with confirmed excision may be preferable; 4) traumatic neuroma pain is only partly due to a peripheral source; 5) demographic and neurological variables do not predict success; 6) the presence of a discrete nerve syndrome and mechanical hyperalgesia modestly predict pain relief; 7) ongoing litigation is the strongest predictor of failure; and 8) change in work status is not a likely outcome.