Distal nerve transfers: a biology-based rationale

Neurosurg Focus. 2009 Feb;26(2):E12. doi: 10.3171/FOC.2009.26.2.E12.


Peripheral nerve injuries can result in devastating numbness and paralysis. Surgical repair strategies have historically focused on restoring the original anatomy with interposition grafts. Distal nerve transfers are becoming a more common strategy in the repair of nerve deficits as these interventions can restore function in months as opposed to more than a year with nerve grafts. The changes that take place over time in the cell body, distal nerve, and target organ after axotomy can compromise the results of traditional graft placement and may at times be better addressed with the use of distal nerve transfers. A carefully devised nerve transfer offers restoration of function with minimal (if any) detectable deficits at the donor site. A new understanding of cortical plasticity along with patient reeducation allow for good return of strength and function after nerve transfer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Axons / physiology
  • Axotomy / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Nerve Regeneration / physiology*
  • Nerve Transfer / methods*
  • Nerve Transfer / trends
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Peripheral Nerve Injuries*
  • Peripheral Nerves / physiology
  • Peripheral Nerves / surgery*
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / pathology
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / physiopathology
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / surgery*
  • Recovery of Function / physiology
  • Tissue Transplantation / methods