Saturday, August 23, 2008

Nerve Surgery Could Improve Diabetic Neuropathy

A new study is being planned by the UT Southwestern Medical Center, funded through the Multidisciplinary Clinical and Translational Pilot and Collaborative study initiative, to test whether a peripheral nerve surgery can ease pain and numbness for those with diabetic neuropathy.

Peripheral neuropathy is disturbed function and structure of peripheral motor, sensory, and autonomic neurons causing nerve-related pain and numbness. There are four classifications of peripheral neuropathy: polyneuropathy, mononeuropathy, mononeuritis multiplex and autonomic neuropathy. The most common form is peripheral polyneuropathy, which mainly affects the feet and legs. Diabetes is the leading known cause of neuropathy in the United States. Neuropathy is the most common complication and source of mortality and morbidity in diabetes patients. It is estimated that nearly 40 percent of all diabetics develop some form of neuropathy.

The UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers believe that pressure on the nerves is responsible for the symptoms of pain and numbness in some, but not all, diabetic patients. Nerves in the legs are oftentimes compressed, causing pain and loss of feeling in the lower leg and the bottom of the foot. Their strategy is to use surgery to release pressure from these nerves so that patients are relieved of the pain and numbness associated with neuropathy.

The surgical treatment they will be testing can be likened to the carpal tunnel surgery, where surgical nerve release is used to alleviate compression at the wrist, or surgery for a pinched nerve. The concept is not new, just a new concept for peripheral neuropathy associated with diabetics. They feel confident that pain may be relieved by releasing the nerve from pressure.

Due to numbness in the feet, there are nearly 100,000 amputations in the United States each year, directly related to diabetic neuropathy. If this surgery is successful, it will allow patients to have at least a bit of sensation in their feet, so they will be aware of whether or not they have injured themselves, which could cut back the number of ulcerations and amputations.

The team of researchers from the UT Southwestern Medical Center plastic surgeons and specialists in diabetes, neurology, pain management and rehabilitation will be launching their cutting-edge study of peripheral nerve surgery in the following months and years.







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