Sensory recovery after hand reimplantation: A clinical, morphological, and neurophysiological study in humans

Mikael Wiberg, Anita Hazari, Christina Ljungberg, Kurt Pettersson, Clas Backman, Erik Nordh, Olga Kwast-Rabben, Giorgio Terenghi

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    Despite fairly good return of motor function, patients who have amputated hands reimplanted demonstrate poor sensory recovery and severe cold intolerance, two variables that are difficult to quantify reliably. In this study we wanted to find out if there is a correlation between morphological findings of sensory and sympathetic reinnervation and clinical and neurophysiological variables. Skin was biopsied from the reimplanted and corresponding area in the normal hands of eight patients who had sustained a hand amputation and subsequent reimplantation. The sections were immunostained using markers for both sensory and sympathetic nerve fibres. Comparison between the reimplanted and normal sides in each individual showed a mean loss of sensory immunoreactive nerve fibres of 30%, and for sympathetic immunoreactivity the loss was 60%. There was measurable two-point discrimination in the injured hand only in patients below the age of 40 years, corresponding to the better recovery of mechanical thresholds evaluated neurophysiologically for this age group. These results confirm the extensive loss of sensory nerve fibres after nerve injury, probably correlated to loss of sensory neurons. We have also shown that it is possible to correlate the results of clinical and neurophysiological evaluation with morphological results of skin reinnervation specific to the repaired nerve, and so improve the possibility for the quantification of sensory recovery.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)163-173
    Number of pages10
    JournalScandinavian Journal of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and Hand Surgery
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2003


    • Hand reimplantation
    • Man
    • Sensory recovery


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