Nerves can be either sensory or motor. Sensory nerves transmit the ability to feel and motor nerves power the muscles that move the joints.
Injuries to the nerves of the hand or wrist can lead to serious loss of function and often require surgical repair. The nerves in the hand and fingers lie just below the surface and can be easily injured by knives, glass and power saws.
When lacerations occur to these nerves, your surgeon may need to repair them by suturing the nerves together. If the repair isn’t done, you may have permanent loss of feeling, motor loss and even pain. Often microsurgical techniques using a microscope and very small instruments including suture that can be finer that a piece of hair may be used for the repair.
Once the nerve repair is completed, the nerve will begin to regenerate itself. The nerve takes about three or four weeks to heal and begins to grow. On average, a nerve will grow an inch a month. Complete recovery will vary based on where the injury was and the age of the patient. During recovery, the patient may experience tingling or a feeling of pins and needles. Over time, these feelings should disappear. Most patients will be improved after surgery but more often they will not regain normal function. It can often take 6 months to a year to reach the best recovery possible.
As you begin to heal, physical therapy may be recommended to keep muscles and joints active. If during the recovery phase feeling hasn’t returned, especially to fingertips, care must be taken to avoid further injury. For example, it is possible to cut or burn fingertips due to lack of sensation. It may also be necessary for the brain to relearn after a nerve injury.