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The Role of Peripheral Nerve Surgery in the Management of Painful Chronic Wounds: Indications and Outcomes

Ducic, Ivica M.D., Ph.D.; Mafi, Amir A. B.S.; Attinger, Christopher E. M.D.; Couch, Kara M.S.W., C.R.N.P.; Al-Attar, Ali M.D., Ph.D.

Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery: July 2008 - Volume 122 - Issue 1 - pp 193-197
doi: 10.1097/PRS.0b013e318177422c
Hand/Peripheral Nerve: Original Articles

Background: Patients with chronic wounds caused by healing problems often present with chronic pain at the site. Proper wound care with or without appropriate reconstruction usually addresses both the wound and its associated pain. However, wounds occasionally remain painful despite successful reconstruction, particularly when they are complicated by an underlying condition. These patients frequently develop a disabling chronic pain condition despite the application of current treatment modalities. The authors used a novel approach to manage this difficult clinical situation, by addressing the sensory nerve supply to the affected wound region.

Methods: Five women and two men with intractable chronic pain despite wound reconstruction underwent surgery and were followed for a mean period of 27 months (range, 8 to 40 months). The involved sensory nerve was identified preoperatively by physical examination, confirmed by nerve block, and then surgically excised and implanted into adjacent muscle. Each patient's pain reduction, ambulation status, and quality-of-life improvement were evaluated.

Results: The involved nerves included the ilioinguinal, lateral femoral cutaneous, sural, saphenous, superficial peroneal, and deep peroneal nerves, and the genital branch of the genitofemoral nerve. All seven patients reported significant pain reduction (p < 0.0001), improved ambulation (p < 0.0001), and improved quality of life (p < 0.0001), as evaluated at last follow-up (mean, 27 months).

Conclusions: This study suggests that an additional treatment modality in the management of chronic wounds can be considered for patients with disabling pain. As an adjunct to other interventions, this novel application of peripheral nerve surgery can critically improve symptoms in selected patients with intractable chronic wound pain.

Washington, D.C.

From the Department of Plastic Surgery, Georgetown University Hospital.

Received for publication May 30, 2007; accepted October 2, 2007.

Ivica Ducic, M.D., Ph.D.; Department of Plastic Surgery; Georgetown University Hospital; PHC Building, 1st Floor; 3800 Reservoir Road N.W.; Washington, D.C. 20007; ducici@gunet.georgetown.edu

Disclosure: None of the authors has any financial disclosures to report related to this study.

©2008American Society of Plastic Surgeons