Nerve Lacerations_Dr-Colin-Hong

Nerve lacerations are a serious medical condition that requires immediate attention and treatment. Nerve damage caused by lacerations can lead to permanent disability, motor impairment, and even paralysis if not treated quickly and properly. The following is an overview of nerve laceration symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatments so that readers can be aware of the potential risks associated with this condition.

History and Definition

The mid-1800s marked the beginning of a more scientific approach to nerve laceration repair. In 1867, German surgeon Hermann Bigelow published his famous paper on the anatomical studies and repair of small peripheral nerves. His work focused on the technique of simple suturing of divided ends without tension.

In 1881, French surgeon Jean Civiale described an eponymous method for partial nerve sutures. This method involved the approximation of two cutaneous flaps with their underlying nerve endings to bridge the lesion gap between them, thus allowing axonal regeneration over time. The first use of autografts for repairing large gaps between severed nerves was described by Edward Sayre in 1895, who utilized harvested fascicles from a contralateral nerve to bridge the gap.

In 1939, Edoardo Pavesi published his landmark paper on the end-to-end suture of large nerves. This technique involved stitching the stumps of severed nerves together and securing them with clamps to maintain tension-free approximation until the union was achieved. The application of this method remains widespread today for medium to large lesions, demonstrating its effectiveness and longevity over time. 

Since then, much research has been devoted to exploring newer techniques for nerve repair, such as epineurial neurorrhaphy (EEN), autografting, nerve conduits and other related methods. Despite these advances, there is significant room for improvement in terms of injury management and functional recovery. Recent research has highlighted the importance of early diagnosis, nerve-sparing techniques, appropriate interventions and better postoperative care as all being essential for improved outcomes in patients with lacerated nerves. Further development and research are needed to further advance our understanding of nerve repair and improve patient outcomes.

Ultimately, a thorough knowledge of the history, anatomy, clinical implications and surgical techniques associated with nerve lacerations is paramount for successful management. In this way, we can learn from the pioneers who have gone before us to ensure that advancements continue to be made in this field for generations to come.


Nerve lacerations are a type of trauma that can cause damage to the nerves and result in impairment of motor, sensory, and autonomic functions. Symptoms of nerve lacerations include:

  • Pain: One of the most common symptoms of a nerve laceration is sudden, intense pain. Patients may experience sharp or burning sensations along the area where the nerve was damaged. The severity of the discomfort can vary depending on how deep the wound is and how much damage has been done to the surrounding tissue and nerves. 


  • Numbness or Tingling: Damage to a nerve can cause loss or reduction in sensation in an affected area. This often manifests as numbness, tingling, or difficulty moving part of your body normally due to lack of feeling.  


  • Weakness: If a nerve has been injured, it can cause weakness in the corresponding muscle group. Patients may have difficulty moving or controlling their arms, hands, legs, or feet if their nerves are damaged. 


  • Muscle Spasms: Injury to a nerve can also cause involuntary muscle contractions and spasms which can be painful and limiting. 


  • Difficulty Controlling Movements: When a nerve has been lacerated it can affect an individual’s ability to control their movements accurately. This often manifests as difficulty with fine motor skills such as writing, typing, and buttoning clothing. 


  • Loss of Sensory Perception: Injuries to peripheral nerves can lead to changes in a person’s senses – primarily touch, temperature sensation, and possibly even pain. This can lead to a decrease in your ability to feel certain sensations in the affected area. 


  • Loss of Muscle Function: If a laceration is severe enough, it can cause permanent damage and loss of muscle function in the affected area. In these cases, patients may experience difficulty with movement or lose their ability to move limbs completely. 


  • Fatigue: Nerve damage can also cause significant fatigue due to decreased nerve transmission efficiency and the body’s need for additional energy for healing processes. In some cases, this fatigue can be long-lasting even after the wound has healed. 


  • Swelling: Severe nerve injury may result in swelling around the affected area as well as discoloration due to subcutaneous bleeding. This can be an indicator of a more serious injury and should be monitored closely by a doctor. 


  • Infection: If the laceration is severe enough, it may cause infection due to exposure of tissue and nerve endings to potential pathogens. Patients should seek medical attention immediately if they experience any signs of infection such as fever, redness, or increased pain in the affected area. 

It is important to seek medical attention immediately if you experience any of these symptoms following a laceration to ensure the best possible outcome.


Nerve lacerations are most commonly caused by injuries from accidents or surgery, but can also be a result of medical conditions such as diabetes. Common causes of nerve lacerations include:

  • Penetrating Wounds: These occur when sharp objects like knives, glass shards, needles, or bullets penetrate the nerve and cause tearing or cutting. 


  • Crush Injuries: This type of injury occurs when an object crushes part of the nerve against a surface causing damage to the axon. 


  • Torsion Injuries: These happen when too much pressure is applied to a nerve and it twists or turns, resulting in stretching and damage to the axon. 


  • Chemical Injuries: Agents such as alcohol, cleaning fluids, and acidic substances can cause nerve lacerations when they come into contact with the nerve tissue. 


  • Disease Processes: Diseases such as diabetes or tumors may lead to nerve lacerations, either from direct tissue damage or from a decrease in circulation that leads to nerve death. 


  • Surgical Errors: During surgery, nerves can be inadvertently cut or damaged due to accidental surgical instruments or improper technique. 


  • Repetitive Motion Injury: Over-use of muscles and joints can eventually lead to nerve compression and damage over time if left untreated.  


  • Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy used to treat cancer may accidentally damage nerves near the treatment site. 


  • Electrical Injury: High voltage electrical shocks can cause direct damage to nerve tissue, leading to a laceration. 


  • Lead Poisoning: Exposure to heavy metals such as lead can cause nerve damage due to toxic buildup in the body over time. 


  • Birth Injuries: Babies born with challenging delivery or underweight may suffer from lacerations of the peripheral nerves due to stretching and compression during the birth process.  

These are just some of the potential causes that could lead to nerve lacerations, but it is important to consult a medical professional for a complete assessment if you believe you have suffered an injury that may involve nerve damage. Early diagnosis and treatment of nerve lacerations are important for a successful recovery.


The diagnosis of nerve lacerations is made through physical examination and imaging tests such as MRI, CT scans, or electromyography. The primary goal in diagnosing a lacerated nerve is to determine the severity of the injury. Depending on the extent of damage, a patient may require surgical intervention or non-invasive treatments such as physical therapy. 

Physical examinations include assessing sensory and motor functions in the affected area, testing reflexes and muscle strength, and checking for signs of infection. Imaging tests can reveal any swelling or bruising surrounding the nerves along with any scar tissue that has formed from past trauma. Electromyography measures electrical activity in muscles to identify if there are any damaged nerves present. 


Treatment for nerve lacerations typically involves surgical repair of the damaged nerve. The specific surgical technique used will depend on the location and severity of the injury. In some cases, the nerve can be directly repaired, while in others, a nerve graft may be needed to bridge the gap.

Before surgery, the patient will typically undergo a physical examination and nerve conduction studies to assess the extent of the injury. After surgery, the patient will likely go through a period of physical therapy to help regain strength and function in the affected area. The recovery time can vary depending on the severity of the injury but can take several months to a year or more.

It is important to note that nerve injuries can result in permanent damage and loss of function. The success of the surgery and recovery will depend on the extent of the injury and the patient’s overall health. It is important to follow the surgeon’s post-operative instructions and attend all follow-up appointments to ensure the best possible outcome.

Risk Factors

Nerve lacerations can be caused by several circumstances and have the potential to cause serious damage. It is important to understand the risk factors associated with nerve lacerations to better prevent them from occurring.

  • Trauma-Related Causes: The most common cause of nerve lacerations is trauma-related incidents. This includes accidents such as falls, motor vehicle collisions, or sports injuries. Additionally, medical procedures that involve penetrating instruments can also lead to nerve lacerations if proper care is not taken. 


  • Disease Processes: Certain diseases can increase the risk of nerve lacerations. This includes conditions such as diabetes, which can cause nerve damage due to poor blood circulation, as well as autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis that may also be associated with nerve damage. 


  • Alcohol and Drug Use: The use of alcohol or drugs can increase the risk of nerve lacerations due to impaired judgment, coordination, and response time. Additionally, certain drugs such as opioids can lead to a decreased sensation in the area where the laceration occurs and make it more difficult for the person to detect any injuries until it is too late. 


  • Incorrect Technique During Medical Procedures: When medical procedures are not done correctly there is an increased risk of nerve lacerations occurring. This can be due to improper use of surgical instruments, or lack of proper training on the part of the medical practitioner. 


  • Age: The risk of nerve lacerations increases with age due to a decreased amount of elasticity in the tissue and increased frailty in the skin. Additionally, older adults may have diseases or conditions that increase their vulnerability to nerve damage as well.

  • Environmental Factors: Sharp objects found in certain environments such as construction sites or industrial plants can also cause nerve lacerations if they are not handled properly. Additionally, working with animals can also increase the chance of sustaining a laceration from sharp claws or teeth.

Nerve lacerations can be caused by several different risk factors, and it is important to recognize these to better prevent them from occurring. By understanding the risks associated with nerve lacerations, one can work to reduce the chances of sustaining an injury.


Nerve lacerations, also known as nerve injuries, can cause a variety of complications depending on the severity of the injury and the location of the laceration. Some possible complications of nerve lacerations include:

  • Loss of sensation or function: Depending on the location and severity of the laceration, the individual may experience loss of sensation or function in the affected area. This can include loss of feeling, movement, or strength.


  • Pain and discomfort: Nerve lacerations can cause pain, discomfort, or a burning sensation in the affected area, which can be severe and long-lasting.


  • Numbness: Numbness or tingling can occur in the affected area due to nerve damage.


  • Motor dysfunction: Motor dysfunction can occur if the nerve laceration affects the motor nerves, causing weakness or paralysis of the muscles supplied by the affected nerve.


  • Reflex changes: Damage to a nerve can cause reflex changes, such as hyperreflexia or hyporeflexia.


  • Scarring: Scarring may occur at the site of the laceration, which can cause aesthetic concern or interfere with normal movement.


  • Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS): CRPS is a rare but serious condition that can occur following an injury or surgery. Symptoms include severe pain, swelling, and changes in skin color and temperature in the affected area.


  • Neuropathic pain: Nerve injury can lead to chronic pain, which is known as neuropathic pain, that can be difficult to manage and can significantly impact the quality of life.

It is important to note that not all nerve lacerations result in complications and that the outcome depends on the severity and location of the injury, as well as the promptness and quality of the treatment received.

When to See a Doctor

If you suspect that you have a nerve laceration, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Nerve lacerations can lead to serious complications if left untreated, so prompt medical attention is crucial.

  • ou should see a doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:


  • Sudden loss of sensation or movement in an area of the body.


  • Pain, tingling, or numbness in an area of the body.


  • Weakness or paralysis of a muscle or group of muscles.


  • Injury or wound that is deep or jagged and may have cut or damaged a nerve.


  • A burn, crush or other injuries that may have damaged a nerve.


  • Symptoms of complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) such as severe pain, swelling, and changes in skin color and temperature.

Nerve laceration symptoms may not always be obvious right away and may take time to develop, so it is a good idea to have any suspicious injury evaluated by a doctor even if no symptoms are present.

Additionally, you should see your doctor if you have a wound that is not healing properly, or if you have a wound that becomes red, swollen, or starts to drain pus. This can be a sign of an infection, which can delay healing and increase the risk of complications.

Step-by-Step Guide to Nerve Lacerations Treatment

The treatment for a nerve laceration typically involves the following steps:


The first step in treating a nerve laceration is to schedule a consultation with a neurosurgeon, plastic surgeon or other medical professionals who specialize in treating nerve injuries. During the consultation, the doctor will examine the affected area and may order imaging tests such as MRI or nerve conduction studies to confirm the diagnosis and assess the extent of the injury.

Treatment Plan

Based on the results of the examination and imaging tests, the doctor will develop a treatment plan. The plan may include non-surgical options such as splinting or casting, but surgery may be required to repair the damaged nerve.

  • Surgery: If surgery is required, the procedure will typically be performed under general anesthesia. The surgery may involve repairing or reconnecting the damaged nerve, or in some cases, using a nerve graft to repair the injury.


  • Immobilization: Following surgery, the affected area may be immobilized in a splint or cast to allow the nerve to heal properly. The duration of immobilization depends on the severity of the injury and the type of surgery performed.


  • Physical therapy: Physical therapy may be recommended to regain range of motion and strength in the affected area. The physical therapist will guide the patient through exercises and techniques designed to improve mobility and strength.

Follow Up Care

The patient will have to attend several follow-up sessions with the surgeon and the physical therapist to monitor the healing process and make any necessary adjustments to the treatment plan.


Recovery time can vary, but it is typically several weeks to several months. The patient will have to be patient, as the recovery process can be slow and sometimes frustrating.

It is important to follow the surgeon’s and physical therapist’s instructions carefully during the recovery period, to ensure proper healing and the best possible outcome.


In conclusion, nerve lacerations can be serious injuries that can result in significant loss of function and mobility. It is important to seek prompt medical attention if you suspect a nerve laceration, as early diagnosis and treatment can greatly improve the chances of recovery.

It is also important to follow any post-operative instructions and engage in any recommended physical therapy to aid in the healing process. With proper care and attention, individuals with nerve lacerations can often regain much of their lost function and lead fulfilling lives.


Dr. Colin Hong is a highly experienced and sought-after plastic surgeon serving Toronto, North York, and Markham for over 35 years. He has earned an esteemed reputation for providing the highest quality of Cosmetic, Plastic, and Reconstructive Surgery procedures at some of the most affordable costs in these areas.

If you are looking to receive medical treatment from Dr. Hong, please contact his office by phone at (416) 222-6986 or email us at to request a consultation today! Please don’t forget to provide your full name, email address, and phone number so we can reach you quickly.

For any nerve laceration treatments you may require from Dr. Hong, it is essential to obtain a referral from your family doctor before scheduling an appointment.

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