Minimizing the risk of neurologic injury in gynecologic surgery

Obstet Gynecol. 2004 Feb;103(2):374-82. doi: 10.1097/01.AOG.0000110542.53489.c6.


Objective: The association of intraoperative neurologic injuries with gynecologic surgical procedures is well established. The sequelae of such injuries are usually transient and resolve with minimal intervention, although long-term disability can and does occasionally occur. The purpose of this study was to examine the mechanisms by which these injuries occur in order to reduce the risk of their occurrence.

Data sources: A MEDLINE search was performed cross-referencing the index terms "neurological injury" and "gynecological surgery," from January 1, 1960 to December 31, 2002.

Methods of study selection: This article, based on the data and results (Level I-III) obtained from the MEDLINE search, examined the most common neurologic injuries that occur in association with abdominal and vaginal surgical procedures routinely performed by gynecologists.

Tabulation, integration, and results: Neurologic injuries after pelvic surgery all generally share a common etiology, specifically injury to one or more components of the lumbosacral nerve plexus. Three major factors that predispose to neurologic injury at the time of gynecological surgery are 1) the improper placement or positioning of self-retaining or fixed retractors, particularly those with deep lateral retractor blades; 2) improper positioning of patients in lithotomy position preoperatively; and 3) radical surgical dissection resulting in autonomic nerve disruption. Level I data strongly implicate the improper placement of self-retaining or fixed retractors as the most common cause of femoral nerve injury arising in association with abdominal surgical procedures.

Conclusion: A thorough understanding of the anatomy of the lumbosacral nerve plexus and the mechanisms by which operative injuries to this plexus occur will enable the gynecologic surgeon to reduce the subsequent risk of their occurrence in his or her own surgical practice.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Gynecologic Surgical Procedures / adverse effects*
  • Gynecologic Surgical Procedures / methods
  • Humans
  • Intraoperative Complications / prevention & control*
  • Lumbosacral Plexus / injuries
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / etiology
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Primary Prevention / methods*
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Assessment
  • Trauma, Nervous System / etiology
  • Trauma, Nervous System / prevention & control*