A peripheral nerve injury can disrupt the communication signals between the central nervous system and the body. If the injury is left untreated, it could result in pain and/or permanent loss of function of the body part affected. A peripheral nerve injury can occur anywhere in the body.

IL-409-nervous-system-overview

Further information on the nerves highlighted above including their function, symptoms and common causes of injury as well as treatment options is listed below. Nerves are listed alphabetically or click on one of the links below to go directly to the respective nerve information:

Axillary Nerve
Brachial Plexus Nerve
Cavernous Nerve
Digital Nerve
Facial Nerve
Greater Auricular Nerve
Inferior Alveolar Nerve
Lingual Nerve
Median Nerve
Obturator Nerve
Peroneal Nerve
Plantar Digital Nerve
Radial Nerve
Sacral Nerve
Sciatic Nerve
Spinal Accessory Nerve
Tibial Nerve
Ulnar Nerve

 

Axillary Nerve

Function: Provides movement and sensation to the shoulder

 
Symptoms: Numbness or weakness in outer shoulder; inability to raise shoulder or lift objects

Common causes
:

 

    • Improper use of crutches
    • Improper placement and tightness of a cast
    • Traumatic event such as a car accident
    • Fracture of the upper arm bone

Treatment: For a compression injury, a decompression surgery can be performed which removes the pressure on the nerve. In the case of a nerve transection -direct repair, autograft, allograft, or other surgical repair methods can be used.

Brachial Plexus Nerve

Function: Motor and sensory control of the hand, wrist, elbow and shoulder

Symptoms: Limp arm and loss of sensation in the shoulder, arm, and hand; may be unable to lift arm or flex at the elbow; weakness, pain, or numbness may also occur; severe cases may cause complete arm paralysis

Common causes:

    • Traumatic event such as a car accident
    • Erb’s Palsy (damage during childbirth)

Treatment: In the case of a nerve transection – direct repair, autograft, allograft, or other surgical repair methods can be used.

Cavernous Nerve

Function:Facilitates penile erection and urinary continence

Symptoms: Erectile dysfunction or urinary incontinence

Common causes:

    • Prostatectomy, removal of the prostate
    • Colorectal surgery

Treatment: In the case of a nerve transection - direct repair, autograft, allograft, or other surgical repair methods can be used. Grafting procedures of the cavernous nerve are typically done robotically.

Digital Nerve

Function: Provides sensation to the fingers

Symptoms: Tingling, pain and/or numbness

Common causes:

    • Laceration
    • Traumatic event such as a power tool accident

Treatment: In the case of a nerve transection – direct repair, autograft, allograft, or other surgical repair methods can be used.

Facial Nerve

Function: Controls muscles that provide facial animation

Symptoms: Loss of facial expressions

Common causes:

    • Traumatic events such as a car accident
    • Bell’s Palsy, the inability to move facial muscles
    • Unexpected injury during a facelift procedure
    • Removal of a parotid tumor or brachial cyst
    • Acoustic neuroma

Possible Treatment Options: Due to the wide range of complications causing the loss of facial expressions, various surgical techniques may be used in treatment. In situations where the nerve is being compressed, surgical procedures call for a removal of the pressure. In the case of a nerve transection – direct repair, autograft, allograft, or other surgical repair methods can be used.

Greater Auricular Nerve

Function: Provides sensations to the lower side of the face and ear

Symptoms: Tingling, pain and/or loss of feeling in the side of the face and ear

Common causes:

    • Unexpected injury during facelift procedures
    • Surgical procedures such as removal of the parotid gland
    • Use as a donor nerve for autograft procedures
    • Trauma such as a blow to the side of the head

Treatment: In the case of a nerve transection – direct repair, autograft, allograft, or other surgical repair methods can be used.

Inferior Alveolar Nerve

Function: Provides sensation to the lower jaw, lip, and teeth

Symptoms: Tingling, pain, or loss of sensation in the lip and chin; may result in bite wounds or burn injuries of the lower lip

Common causes:

    • Tooth extraction
    • Jaw osteotomy, surgical realignment of the jaw
    • Dental implant procedures

Treatment: In the case of a nerve transection – direct repair, autograft, allograft, or other surgical repair methods can be used.

Lingual Nerve

Function: Provides sensation to the tongue and the inside of the cheek

Symptoms: Tingling, pain, and/or loss of sensation in the inner mouth

Common causes:

    • Tooth extraction
    • Dental implant
    • Anesthetic injection
    • Surgical procedures such as a removal of a cyst or tumor
    • Neuroma

Treatment: In the case of a nerve transection or neuroma – direct repair, autograft, allograft or other surgical methods can be used.

Median Nerve

Function: Controls movement and sensations in the hand

Symptoms: Loss of sensation, pain, and/or inability to move the forearm, wrist, or hand; inability to hold objects with the hand

Common causes:

    • Carpal tunnel syndrome
    • Laceration
    • Traumatic event such as a car accident
    • Neuroma

Treatment: Treatment is specialized to correct the underlying cause. For entrapment syndromes, a splint may be worn at night to allow inflammation to decrease and sometimes recovery happens on its own. In more serious cases, treatment requires decompression of the nerve. This procedure may require surgery to open the affected area and remove the compressing force on the nerve. In the case of a nerve transection or neuroma – direct repair, autograft, allograft, or other surgical repair methods can be used.

Obturator Nerve

Function: Provides motor and sensory function to the thigh

Symptoms: Loss of sensation in thigh; inability to pull leg into the body

Common causes:

    • Pelvic or abdominal surgery
    • Entrapment of nerve

Treatment: In the case of a nerve transection – direct repair, autograft, allograft, or other surgical repair methods can be used. Treatment for compression injuries can include pain medications and physical therapy to strengthen the affected area. If problems persist, surgery might be necessary to remove the compressive pressure on the nerve.

Peroneal Nerve

Function: Controls movement and sensation to the lower leg, foot and toes

Symptoms: Inability to hold foot horizontal (foot drop), weakness and/or loss of sensation in ankle and foot, or walking abnormalities

Common causes:

    • Traumatic event such as a car accident
    • Compression of nerve in fibular tunnel
    • Knee injuries

Treatment: Therapy, steroids and time might be enough to allow function to return. In the case of a nerve transection – direct repair, autograft, allograft, or other surgical repair methods can be used.

Plantar Digital Nerve

Function: Provides sensation to the toes

Symptoms: Pain or tingling between the toes and on the ball of the foot, or the sensation of walking on a marble

Common causes:

    • Traumatic event
    • Morton’s neuroma

Treatment: Doctors normally take a very conservative approach with this injury and prescribe pain and anti-inflammatory medications to reduce the pain caused by the injury. In the case of a nerve transection or neuroma – direct repair, autograft, allograft, or other surgical repair methods can be used.

Radial Nerve

Function: Controls sensations of the back of the hand and wrist and controls the finger-thumb pinch motion

Symptoms: Numbness/tingling or weakness in the wrist, fingers, and thumb; may cause wrist drop

Common causes:

    • Entrapment of the nerve
    • Traumatic event such as a car accident
    • Result from humeral breaks or fractures
    • Neuroma

Treatment: The treatment for entrapment consists of removing the compressive pressure on the nerve. Surgery is often needed to properly free the nerve and a protective wrap can be placed around the nerve to help minimize the compressive pressure. In the case of a nerve transection or neuroma – direct repair, autograft, allograft, or other surgical repair methods can be used.

Sacral Nerve

Function:  Innervates buttocks and thigh and helps control urinary and fecal excretion

Symptoms: Muscle weakness and/or shooting, burning, or stabbing pain running from buttocks to thigh; potential problems with urination and/or defecation

Common causes:

    • Traumatic events such as serious falls
    • Vaginal childbirth
    • Hysterectomy
    • Surgical removal of tumors

Treatment: Depending on the injury type, the patient may be treated using physical therapy, steroids, and pain medication. If these do not work, surgery may be an option.

Sciatic Nerve

Function: Provides sensation and movement to the back of thigh, leg, and foot

Symptoms: Pain, weakness, and/or numbness down the back of the leg to the knee; loss of sensation below the knee

Common causes:

    • Traumatic event such as an ATV accident
    • Hip implant surgeries

Treatment: For traumatic injuries and injuries caused by the hip implant surgeries that lead to a transection of the nerve, surgical methods are needed for proper nerve repair. These methods could consist of a direct repair, an autograft, or an allograft among other choices. Compression of the nerve either by traumatic event or the placement of the hip implant can be treated by removing the compressive pressure on the nerve. To aid in the repair of the nerve, a protective wrap can be placed around the nerve to help minimize the compressive pressure.

Spinal Accessory Nerve

Function: Stabilizes and shrugs the shoulder

Symptoms: Slumping shoulder and pain in the upper back

Common causes:

    • Unexpected damage during surgical procedures
    • Lymph node removal in the neck
    • Radical neck dissection due to cancer
    • Traumatic event such as a car accident

Treatment: In the case of a nerve transection – direct repair, autograft, allograft or other surgical methods can be used.

Tibial Nerve

Function: Provides movement and sensation to the calf and foot muscles

Symptoms: Loss of function or sensation in the lower leg, specifically in the calf and foot

Common causes:

    • Traumatic event such as a car accident
    • Fractures located in the back of the knee or lower leg
    • Neuroma

Treatment: In the case of a nerve transection or neuroma – direct repair, autograft, allograft, or other surgical repair methods can be used. Alternative approaches to alleviate the compressive pressure could be a dual treatment of pain medication and physical therapy to strengthen the surrounding muscles and provide a protective layer.

Ulnar Nerve

Function: Allows movement and sensation in the wrist and hand

Symptoms: Numbness, pain, or weakness in the hand; loss of coordination of the fingers and weakness of hand flexing

Common causes:

    • Entrapment of the nerve
    • Traumatic event such as a car accident
    • Neuroma

Treatment: The treatment for entrapment syndromes consists of removing the compressive pressure on the nerve. Surgery is often needed to free the nerve and a protective wrap can be placed around the nerve to help minimize the compressive pressure. In the case of a nerve transection or neuroma – direct repair, autograft, allograft, or other surgical repair methods can be used.

More on treatment options can be found here