Can Handsurgery Cure Paralysis?
It is not easy to lose something that is essential to your quality of life for a long time. After all, most of us are familiar functioning in specific ways according to our mobility and what society deems appropriate. So, what can do you when something monumental for your daily routine, the use of your hands, comes to an abrupt end? If your hands stop moving, what can you do? Is there anything a hand surgeon in Birmingham, Al or anywhere else in the world can do to give mobility back to your hand? Let’s find out.
Types of Paralysis By Location
While the term paralysis is a catch-all word to mean “something that can’t move no matter how much you want it to” there are different reasons why something that is paralyzed cant move. There are also different signs and levels of paralysis, as well as different causes, both internal and external.
This is because the central nervous system is a complicated amalgamation of bone, nerves, muscles, electricity, and brain functions. Some of which are conscious and others that run automatically without our intent.
The other three types of paralysis are hemiplegia, paralysis on one side of the body, and paraplegia, being paralyzed from the waist down. The last one, quadriplegia, is paralysis from the neck downward.
In the case of someone with their hand or a single body part is paralyzed, the type of paralysis is called monoplegia. Monoplegia is something that can happen to someone either temporarily or permanently. It all depends on what caused it and what kind of treatments are available.
The list of potential causes for monoplegia include:
- Cerebral Palsy
- Nerve Damage or Injuries
- Nerves That Have Internal Bruising
- Motor Neuron Damage
- Brain Injuries
- Nerves are Severed Entirely
Types of Paralysis by Severity
Simply put, there are a variety of reasons why a hand suffers from paralysis. Temporary or Permanent.
It is also important to know that there are different degrees of paralysis. The severity types boil down to muscle mobility and feeling in the extremity that is lost. The degrees of paralysis include:
- Partial: when you still have some control of your muscles (sometimes called paresis).
- Complete: when you can’t move your muscles at all.
- Permanent: when muscle control never comes back.
- Temporary: when some or all muscle control returns.
- Flaccid: when the muscles get flabby and shrink.
- Spastic: when the muscles are tight and hard and jerk around oddly (spasm).
This makes the idea of curing paralysis even harder because there are so many variables. Cause, location, and severity. So, what kind of damage can a hand surgeon even fix? What is within their limits and what can someone expect from that sort of surgical repair?
Repairing and Replacing Nerves
There are three types of main nerves in the human hand. Nerves that a hand surgeon can repair and replace with varying degrees of success. The Ulnar, Radial, and Median are responsible for different movements in your hand, based on their connection.
- Ulnar Nerve – It is the largest unprotected nerve in your body and runs from the top of the shoulder to the end of the pinky. It controls the sensory and motor parts of the forearm, fourth and fifth digits, and hand. If that is under paralysis, there will be a weakness in the hand, muscle wasting and claw hand.
- Radial Nerve – This nerve runs from the shoulder down the back of the arm and provides sensory information to the back of the hand. This nerve enables the extension of the wrist and fingers. Damage to the radial nerve causes finger weakness.
- Median Nerve – The median nerve runs down the upper arm to the hand, and it provides feeling to the thumb, index and middle finger. Paralysis can hinder those parts of the fingers.
Those nerves, as well as, nerves attached to the spinal cord dictate not only the feeling in our hands but our functionality as well. Almost as much as the tendons. So, are they replaceable?
Spinal and Hand Surgeons are Reversing Paralysis
Yes. As a matter of fact, there is evidence of it in patients who underwent that sort of replacement in the spinal cord and the hand. As of July 4th, 2019, there is documentation of evidence that nerve replacement in both the spine and the hand result in people regaining motion and feelings in their extremities. In Australia, a man who lost feelings in his hands are able to use them again after a nerve transplant. While it isn’t to the same extent of mobility from before the paralysis, it is much more promising than most people give it credit for.
However, this is still in its early stages. So far, the only patients that were able to see changes were ones that got surgery within 18 months of paralysis. Still, this is much more than what most people hope for. This is still a huge leap forward. And the expertise and execution of hand surgeons will only get better in time.