Nerve transplantation may be performed for an injury to a very large segment of nerve when there is not adequate nerve graft material in the patient to harvest without causing a substantial deficit. The procedure â€” which was first performed by Susan Mackinnon, MD, director of the Center for Nerve Injury and Paralysis â€” is used infrequently, because other procedures, such as nerve transfers, can often be used to achieve excellent results.
Examples of injuries that might be considered for nerve transplant are damage to a large segment of sciatic nerve or severe brachial or lumbosacral plexus injuries. During the procedure, donor nerve from a cadaver or a family member is used to provide the nerve grafts.
Patients who undergo nerve transplant are required to take immunosuppressive agents for a limited period. Over time, the body's cells migrate into the graft, and the patient can be weaned off the medication.