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Neurol India. 2019 Nov-Dec;67(6):1419-1422. doi: 10.4103/0028-3886.273626.

Peripheral Nerve Injuries: Electrophysiology for the Neurosurgeon.

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Department of Neurology, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India.
Department of Neurosurgery, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India.


Peripheral nerve injuries are a heterogeneous and distinct group of disorders that are secondary to various causes commonly including motor vehicle accidents, falls, industrial accidents, household accidents, and penetrating trauma. The earliest classification of nerve injuries was given by Seddon and Sunderland, which holds true till date and is commonly used. Neuropraxia, axonotmesis, and neurotmesis are the three main types of nerve injuries. The electrophysiological studies including nerve conduction studies (NCS) and electromyography (EMG) play a key role and are now considered an extension of the clinical examination in patients with peripheral nerve injuries. The electrophysiological results should be interpreted in the light of clinical examination. These studies help in localizing the site of lesion, determine the type and severity of lesion, and help in prognosticating. In neuropraxia, the compound muscle action potential (CMAP) and sensory nerve action potential (SNAP) are elicitable on stimulating the nerve distal to the site of the lesion but demonstrate conduction block on proximal stimulation. The electrodiagnostic findings in axonotmesis and neurotmesis are similar. After few days of injury, Wallerian degeneration sets in with failure to record CMAP and SNAP. Intraoperative technique involves recording from the peripheral nerves during the intraoperative period and has proved useful in the surgical management of nerve injuries and helps in identifying the injured nerve, to determine whether the nerve is in continuity and in localizing the site of lesion. Intraoperative monitoring also helps in identifying the nerve close to an ongoing surgery so that surgical damage to the nerve can be prevented.


Axonotmesis; electrophysiology; nerve injury; neuropraxia; neurotmesis

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