Chronic Nerve Injuries and Delays in Surgical Treatment Negatively Impact Patient-reported Quality of Life

Plast Reconstr Surg Glob Open. 2021 May 21;9(5):e3570. doi: 10.1097/GOX.0000000000003570. eCollection 2021 May.


Little emphasis has been paid to characterize quality of life (QoL) burdens experienced by patients seeking surgical treatment for nerve injuries and neuropathic pain.

Methods: A cross-sectional survey was distributed to all patients (N = 767) from a single nerve surgeon's practice between 2014 and 2019. Data collected included demographics, specifics of the injury and symptoms, time to referral, and effects of the injury, surgery, and timing of surgery on QoL.

Results: Of the 767 patients, 209 (27.2%) completed the survey. Average age was 48.8 years; 68.9% of patients were women and 31.1% men. At presentation, 68% had experienced symptoms for more than 1 year; 86.1% reported severity as being profound; 97.6% reported QoL was at least moderately negatively impacted by nerve injury; 70% felt they should have been referred earlier for surgical evaluation; 51.2% were not told that nerve surgery was an option for their problem; 83.1% felt that earlier referral would have improved their QoL. After surgery, symptoms were significantly mitigated in 55.5% of the patients, moderately mitigated in 21.5%. Patients reported QoL was significantly (59.8%) or at least moderately (76.6%) improved by nerve surgery.

Conclusions: The majority of patients reported that nerve injuries imparted a moderate to severe impact on QoL, and that surgical treatment improved QoL. Most patients felt that earlier referral for surgical intervention would have led to better outcome and positively impacted QoL. Interdisciplinary treatment algorithms, including a role for surgical intervention, may be helpful in facilitating timely diagnosis, referral, and thus improved outcomes.