Analysis of Upper and Lower Extremity Peripheral Nerve Injuries in a Population of Patients with Multiple Injuries

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Abstract

Background

The purpose of this study was to determine the prevalence, cause, severity, and patterns of associated injuries of limb peripheral nerve injuries sustained by patients with multiple injuries seen at a regional Level 1 trauma center.

Methods

Patients sustaining injuries to the radial, median, ulnar, sciatic, femoral, peroneal, or tibial nerves were identified using a prospectively collected computerized database, maintained by Sunnybrook Health Science Centre, and a detailed chart review was undertaken.

Results

From a trauma population of 5,777 patients treated between January 1, 1986, and November 30, 1996, 162 patients were identified as having an injury to at least one of the peripheral nerves of interest, yielding a prevalence of 2.8%. These 162 patients sustained a total of 200 peripheral nerve injuries, 121 of which were in the upper extremity. The mean patient age was 34.6 years (SEM +/- 1.1 year), and 83% of patients were male. The mean injury severity score was 23.1 (+/- 0.90), and the mean length of hospital stay was 28 days (+/- 1.8).

Conclusions

Motor vehicles crashes predominated (46%) as the cause of injury. The most frequently injured nerve was the radial nerve (58 injuries), and in the lower limb, the peroneal nerve was most commonly injured (39 injuries). Diagnosis of a peripheral nerve injury was made within 4 days of admission to Sunnybrook Health Science Centre in 78% of the cases. Surgery was required to treat 54% of patients. Head injuries were the most common associated injury, occurring in 60% of patients. Other common associated injuries included fractures and dislocations. The present report aims to aid in identification and treatment of peripheral nerve injuries.

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