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Some Function Returned to Hand in Spinal Cord Injury Patient

Case report shows feasibility of nerve transfer procedure for patient with injury at C-7 level

WEDNESDAY, May 16 (HealthDay News) -- For patients with spinal cord injury (SCI), nerve transfer may represent a therapeutic option, according to a case report published online May 15 in the Journal of Neurosurgery.

Susan E. Mackinnon, M.D., from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and colleagues describe a single case of nerve transfer following a complete cervical SCI with an approximate C-7 level in a 71-year-old man. Twenty-two months after initial injury in a motor vehicle accident, the patient had no grip or pinch strength in either hand and had no finger flexion or extension. He underwent bilateral transfer of the brachialis nerve (C-6 level) to the anterior interosseous nerve (C-8 level) at 23 months after initial injury.

The investigators found that, at approximately eight and 10 months postoperatively, the patient began to exhibit movement in the flexor pollicis longus and flexor digitorum profundus in the left and right hands, respectively. More than 15 months postoperatively, the patient was able to use his right hand to perform simple hand-to-mouth movements, and was able to feed himself and perform rudimentary writing activities with his left hand.

"To our knowledge, this is the first reported case of thumb and finger flexor reinnervation after an SCI," the authors write. "Further studies will be required to assess reliable clinical outcomes and optimal timing for surgical intervention."

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