New research out of the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center suggests that patients who receive a procedure to reroute amputated nerves experience less pain, numbness and phantom limb pain than those who don’t receive the treatment.
The procedure, dubbed targeted muscle reinnervation, has a significant effect on patients if performed at the time of amputation, according to the research. The procedure can also be performed to help amputees post-procedure, especially those who have experienced chronic pain related to the amputation.
Severe nerve pain in amputated limbs often requires medication to manage and can make the use of prosthetic limbs intolerable, and researchers are hopeful that the TMR procedure could reduce such issues.
Only 13% of patients who received TMR procedures at the time of amputation reported having pain in the limb after six months, according to the OSU research. Investigators also noted that reports of phantom limb pain were reduced by half in amputees who received the TMR procedure months or years post-amputation.
“Their pain is caused by disorganized nerve endings in the residual limb that used to connect to muscle, but now have nowhere to go. Attaching those nerve endings to active nerves in a nearby muscle allows the body to rebuild circuits and alleviates phantom and residual limb pain by giving those severed nerves something to do,” plastic surgery dept. burn, wound & trauma division chief Dr. Ian Valerio said in a press release. “Patients who have been living with this constant pain feel relief almost immediately. Within the first couple of weeks after surgery, they’ll say that they feel much better and that the pain is greatly reduced or gone completely. This allows them to finally get back to their daily lives and effectively adjust to life without a limb.”