Nerve Grafts

Also known as: nerve repair, nerve grafting.

What are nerve grafts?

Nerve grafts are segments of nerve or nerve-like material that are used to reconstruct damaged nerves in the body. When there is a nerve gap that cannot be repaired with sutures alone, a graft is needed. The “graft” serves as a bridge for a reconstructed nerve to grow across.

The procedure is usually performed for damaged nerves that perform an important motor and/or sensory function. The materials that can be used for nerve grafting include bioabsorbable synthetic conduits, processed nerve from cadavers, segments of vein, and expendable nerves from other parts of the patient's body.

What happens during the procedure?

The details of the procedure will vary based on the location and severity of the nerve damage. If a short segment of nerve requires reconstruction, a synthetic graft or cadaver-based graft may be used. If a longer segment of damaged nerve requires reconstruction, a graft may be chosen from the patient’s body.

If a nerve graft is selected from the patient’s body, the procedure involves selecting a donor nerve graft with a less important function (e.g., sensory function only) for reconstruction of a nerve with a more important function (e.g., motor or combined motor and sensory function). The removed nerve is then placed as bridge across a nerve gap. Over time, the nerve will grow across and replace the nerve graft.

Is any special preparation needed?

As with any procedure that may require general anesthesia, you may need to avoid food, drink and certain medications before the procedure.

What are the risk factors?

Infection, bleeding, loss of sensation to areas of the body and failure of the nerve reconstruction are all potential risks of nerve grafting procedures.

Reviewed by: Aaron Berger, MD

This page was last updated on: January 09, 2020 03:55 PM