Key Considerations for Nerve Transfer Rehabilitation After Surgical Reconstruction for Brachial Plexus and Peripheral Nerve Injuries

Lorna C. Kahn, Macyn M. Stonner, Christopher J. Dy

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

Nerve transfer surgery is commonly used to treat patients with brachial plexus injuries. However, guidelines on postoperative rehabilitation are not clearly established. Nerve transfers require the patient to relearn how to recruit newly innervated muscle(s), which may not occur naturally or intuitively. Supervised therapy is a valuable resource to guide patients through their lengthy recovery (often >12 months) because target muscle strength is both obtained and functionally used in daily life. This article highlights 10 key principles that provide the foundation for rehabilitation following nerve transfer surgery after a brachial plexus injury. Due to the shortcomings of the current evidence base for nerve transfer rehabilitation, we have included our anecdotal experience to augment the existing literature. It is important to have a collaborative surgeon–therapist relationship to communicate regarding operative details, expected timelines for reinnervation, patient needs, and realistic expectations. We provide examples of how to tailor the exercise program to synergistically recruit both the donor and target muscle action, including how to appropriately advance exercises based on the current level of nerve return. We also discuss the role that fatigue plays in denervated muscle and how fatigue may affect the exercise demands placed on the target muscle during specific stages of recovery.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)160-168
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Hand Surgery
Volume49
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2024

Keywords

  • Brachial plexus
  • nerve transfer
  • peripheral nerve
  • rehabilitation
  • therapy

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Key Considerations for Nerve Transfer Rehabilitation After Surgical Reconstruction for Brachial Plexus and Peripheral Nerve Injuries'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this