Lingual Nerve Repair: To Graft or Not to Graft?

J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2015 Sep;73(9):1844-50. doi: 10.1016/j.joms.2015.03.018. Epub 2015 Mar 19.


Purpose: Since no studies have compared direct and graft repair of the lingual nerve, we examined the subjective and objective outcomes of lingual nerve repair by direct epineurial repair and indirect graft repair, assessed the effect of other confounding variables, and compared the outcomes of autograft and allograft repairs.

Patients and methods: All patients who had undergone microneurosurgical repair of the lingual nerve from 2000 to 2012 by 1 surgeon (M.M.) were asked to complete an online questionnaire regarding their current neurosensory status at least 2 years after nerve repair. A direct comparison was made between patients who had undergone direct epineurial repair and those who had undergone interpositional nerve graft repair. Student's t test and χ(2) test were used to determine whether a significant difference existed in the success between the 2 techniques and whether age, gender, race, delay from injury to repair, or degree of initial nerve deficit influenced the success of nerve repair.

Results: Of the 72 patients identified, 43, who had undergone 47 nerve repairs (18 direct, 29 indirect graft repairs [4 bilateral]; 28 female and 19 male patients; mean age 28.3 years), were interviewed. The objective results of functional sensory recovery, defined by a Medical Research Council Scale grade of S3, S3+, or S4, was 89% for the graft repairs and 85% for the direct repairs (P = .01). The subjective patient satisfaction score (0 to 10 scale) was 8.9 for the graft repairs and 8.1 for the direct repairs (P = .02). The autograft and allograft repairs performed comparably, and the other variables (ie, age, gender, race, delay from injury to nerve repair, gap length, and initial Sunderland grade injury) were not found to be significant (P > .05).

Conclusion: Graft repair of the lingual nerve provides superior long-term (>2 years) objective and subjective outcomes compared with direct repair. This might be because of the lack of tension at the repair site, more freedom with nerve stump preparation, and the addition of neurotropic and neurotrophic factors from the donor nerve graft at the site of injury to augment neurosensory recovery.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lingual Nerve / surgery*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurosurgical Procedures / methods*
  • Young Adult