To estimate the incidence, etiology, and outcome of neuropathies after major gynecologic surgery and to recommend management and prevention strategies for these complications.
The medical records of women who suffered neuropathy after major pelvic surgery between July 1995 and June 2001 were reviewed. Mechanism of injury, treatment, and outcome were determined from the patient charts.
Twenty-three of 1210 patients undergoing major pelvic surgery during the defined period suffered a postoperative neuropathy for an incidence of 1.9%. Neurologic injury involved the obturator (n = 9), ilioinguinal/iliohypogastric (n = 5), genitofemoral (n = 4), femoral (n = 3), and lumbosacral nerve plexus (n = 2) in these women. Etiologies were a result of direct surgical trauma, stretch injury, suture entrapment, or were retractor related. All patients with motor deficits were treated with physiotherapy, and pharmacologic or surgical management was used in women with sensory deficits or pain. Seventy-three percent of the women experienced full recovery; the only patients with persistent symptoms were those with unrepaired nerve transection or injury to the lumbosacral plexus. Both time to diagnosis and time to resolution varied widely.
Neuropathies are infrequently associated with major pelvic surgery. We observed a 73% complete recovery rate, and time to resolution varied depending on the severity of injury. Physical therapy plays a valuable role in managing these patients, but some may require surgery for relief of their symptoms.