What Exactly Is a Nerve Transfer?
Nerve transfer is a type of corrective surgery that may be necessary to treat birth injuries, including Erb’s palsy. The surgery aims to restore movement and flexibility to the affected area. A successful procedure may help a child regain mobility and some strength in the affected shoulder, arm, elbow, hand and fingers.
Surgery cannot completely mitigate the effects of the underlying nerve injury. A child also may experience negative side effects with surgery. Parents may choose to file a birth injury claim to secure the financial resources necessary to fund nerve transfer surgery and other Erb’s palsy treatment options.
How common is nerve transfer and when does it occur?
This type of “microsurgery” is relatively uncommon, according to the Boston Children’s Hospital’s Brachial Plexus Program. Microsurgery makes up only 10 to 20 percent of brachial plexus birth palsy surgeries (Erb’s palsy is a form of brachial plexus injury).
This treatment is recommended when non-surgical options – such as daily physical therapy – do not resolve the underlying problem within the first three to six months of a child’s life.
How does nerve transfer surgery work?
Nerve transfer surgery involves “transferring” nerves from one part of the body to another (in this case, the point of injury). The transferred nerves are culled from sources where they are considered less important or redundant. Transferred nerves may eventually help restore functioning by essentially standing in for damaged or torn nerves.
A surgeon will strive to use nerves from as close to the affected site as possible, in this case, in other parts of the brachial plexus nerve bundle. Nerve transfer is typically the preferred option when there has been a complete tear of the nerve roots.
Potential Complications after a Nerve Transfer Surgery
The primary goal of nerve transfer is to restore function in the arm and particularly the elbow. The surgery has the greatest chance of success when it takes place close to the time of injury. Infants and young children are more receptive to the surgery than adults.
There are potential complications with nerve transfer surgery, which can include:
- pain (unlikely but worth consideration);
- loss of muscle mass and strength (due to insufficient recovery);
- permanent disability;
- joint stiffness (which may respond to physical therapy); and
- other side effects and long-term consequences.
The child’s physician and surgeon can speak more specifically to the child’s likely outcome. Boston Children’s Hospital says of nerve transfer: “Generally, surgery does not make children worse but does not always lead to full recovery.”
Seeking Compensation for Surgery
Nerve transfer surgery, recovery and post-surgical therapy represent significant expenses for the parent of an injured child. A birth injury claim may secure compensation to fund surgery and associated treatment. A successful claim must prove a doctor’s or hospital’s mistake was responsible for the child’s injury and Erb’s palsy.
The Florida Erb’s Palsy injury attorneys at Chalik & Chalik can answer your questions about seeking compensation in a birth injury action. Schedule a free case evaluation to learn more about your child’s options for physical and financial recovery. Call (888) 476-4697 or complete our confidential online evaluation form.