Nerve Damage Can Be Extensive

It can happen on one side of body and affect other, researchers found

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THURSDAY, April 1, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Nerve damage on one side of the body can also affect the other side of the body.

That's what researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) found. Their report appears in the May issue of the Annals of Neurology.

The researchers found evidence of this previously unknown link between nerves on opposite sides of the body while doing experiments with rats. When a major nerve was cut in a rat's paw, there was a significant decrease in skin nerve endings in the corresponding area of the rat's opposite paw.

This study may offer important information about the care of people with nerve damage. The study also raises questions about the common practice of using tissues on the opposite side of the body as controls during research.

"Patients with pain syndromes related to nerve damage sometimes report symptoms on the side opposite their injury as well, but those reports are usually discounted because there has been no biological framework for the phenomenon," principal author Dr. Anne Louise Oaklander, director of the MGH Nerve Injury Unit, said in a prepared statement.

"Our evidence means that these reports can no longer be ignored and gives us a new direction for research," Oaklander said.

More information

The American Society for Surgery of the Hand has more about nerve injuries.

SOURCE: Massachusetts General Hospital, news release, April 1, 2004

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