BACKGROUND: Injury to the median, ulnar, radial, and brachioplexus nerves can place significant constraints on an individual's quality of life.
OBJECTIVE: To promote efforts to reduce exposure to injury risk factors and to utilize effective therapies when damage does occur, it is important to understand historical trends in both the demographics of peripheral nerve injury (PNI) patients and their treatment. We sought to examine some of these trends.
METHODS: We searched the Nationwide Inpatient Sample for discharges classified with International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision diagnosis codes of median, ulnar, radial, or brachioplexus nerve injury between 1993 and 2006. We analyzed these data to obtain trend information for the number of discharges, hospital charges, treatment course, patient demographics, and other measures.
RESULTS: Although aggregate discharges involving these injuries decreased slightly between 1993 and 2006, mean nominal hospital charges for their treatment increased significantly, in particular, for brachial plexus injuries. In 2006 30 to 40% of median, ulnar, and radial nerve injuries required acute repair by direct nerve suture. PNI patients in 2006 were more likely to be male, between the ages of 18 and 44 years, and from regions where the median income level is greater than $36 000. Approximately 75% of PNIs were treated in academic hospitals and 95% in metropolitan areas.
CONCLUSION: PNIs are complex injuries that primarily affect males in key years of adulthood, frequently requiring high-cost acute surgical repair. Although there has been a slight decline in their incidence in the past decade, treatment cost has increased.