Surgical Nerve Damage: How It Happens and How to Treat It

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Any surgical procedure carries potential complications and risks. One of the risks involved with surgery is nerve damage. Surgical nerve damage can occur in a number of ways and can vary in severity. Prior to undergoing any surgical procedure, patients should understand the risks involved. To reduce the risk for nerve damage and other complications, undergo surgery only when it’s essential, and choose a surgeon who is experienced and specializes in the surgery.

Damage from Anesthesia

When anesthesia is used, whether general, local or regional, there is always the risk for nerve damage. If damage occurs due to anesthesia use, the damage is generally temporary but can be permanent, although that is rare. When nerve damage occurs from the use of anesthesia, it is usually a result of the medication being injected into a nerve or the syringe being used. If a spinal epidural is performed, the risk for nerve damage increases because the spinal cord can be injured by the injection. Nerve damage can also occur if a patient is under anesthesia and is kept in one position for a prolonged period of time. This causes a decrease in blood flow to the nerves.

Nerves can also be damaged during the surgery, especially if the surgery is conducted on or near the spine. Risk of injury to the spinal cord increases depending on how invasive the procedure is. Often, nerves will become damaged at the site of an incision, causing the incision site to lose sensation and feel numb.

Treatment for Damage

In minor cases of surgical nerve damage, treatment is not usually needed, because the damage will heal on its own without any long term consequences. If, however, serious nerve damage occurs, treatment will be needed. Unfortunately, even with treatment, some cases of nerve damage cannot be reversed, and the results will be permanent.

Treating nerve damage generally begins with physical therapy or surgery to repair damaged nerves. Often, medications are prescribed to help manage the symptoms of nerve damage. Common medications used include pain relievers, tricyclic antidepressants and some anti-seizure drugs.

Often, people with nerve damage choose to take natural and alternative paths when dealing with the symptoms of nerve damage. Acupuncture is said to be very beneficial when coping with nerve damage. Hypnosis and meditation may also be used. Some patients decide to use biofeedback.

Preventing Nerve Damage

There is no sure fire way to prevent nerve damage because it is, after all, a risk of surgery. When choosing a hospital and surgeon, though, choose one with ample experience in the field and knowledge of the use of anesthesia. A competent surgeon greatly reduces the risk for nerve damage complications.


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