When nerve endings are severed or damaged, they naturally try to regenerate. After an amputation, those severed nerves have nowhere to grow, so they sometimes end up as a neuroma—a bundle of nerves bound together in a tumor-like ball. And while those nerves are bundled up, they continue to send signals, often resulting in debilitating pain.
How Targeted Muscle Reinnervation Can Help
In 2002, a doctor at Northwestern University was trying to help amputees have better control over their limb prosthetics using their natural muscle movement. In the process of developing that treatment, he discovered an unexpected benefit—giving those dead-end nerves a new destination actually helped relieve pain from certain nerve conditions.
Nerve Conditions That Benefit From Targeted Muscle Reinnervation
- Burning sensation from neuromas
- Phantom limb pain
- Residual limb pain
- Peripheral neuropathy
How Targeted Muscle Reinnervation Works
As the name suggests, Targeted Muscle Reinnervation is a surgery that takes those wayward nerve endings, connects them to existing nerves, and gives them a new muscle “target.” Giving the nerves somewhere to transmit their signal “connects the circuit” and takes away the painful sensation.
Early research shows the treatment is most effective if done at the time of amputation before the nerve pain begins, but the surgery can be done years after an amputation.
Recovery After Targeted Muscle Reinnervation
Targeted Muscle Reinnervation surgery usually lasts between two and four hours and will require a hospital stay of one to five days, depending on how intensive the surgery was and how much pain the patient is in afterward. Several follow-up appointments will be scheduled once the surgery is completed, and annual check-ins may be necessary.
If the surgery was done at the time of an amputation, the fitting process for a prosthetic will usually take four to six weeks. If it was done for nerve pain after a previous amputation, the patient can return to work as early as two weeks for low-impact office jobs. More physically demanding jobs will have a longer recovery time. If you had a prosthetic at the time of surgery, you might not be able to wear it for a few weeks while the swelling goes down.
Most people who have the procedure will notice pain from the actual surgery, but nerve pain will initially be gone completely. As those newly attached nerves “wake up” and transmit signals to their new destination, the nerve pain returns but gradually decreases over time.
Target Muscle Reinnervation Is Not for Everyone
Target Muscle Reinnervation surgery has shown success in many different groups of people with amputation-related nerve pain, including those who had their amputation up to 10 years ago. However, it’s not recommended for all people with nerve pain.
Who Shouldn’t Have Target Muscle Reinnervation
- People with spinal cord injuries
- People with brachial plexus injuries
- People who had their amputation surgery more than 10 years ago
- People who do not have stable soft tissue in the amputation area
- People who were born without their limb
- People who have nerve damage
- People generally not healthy enough for surgery
Trust Austin Foot and Ankle With Your Targeted Muscle Reinnervation
You don’t have to live with nerve pain. If you’re suffering after an amputation or if you know you’ll be dealing with an amputation soon, Targeted Muscle Reinnervation may be the answer you’re looking for, and the experienced staff at Austin Foot and Ankle can help. At Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists, we treat injuries below the knee that affect the foot and ankle only.
We understand that having surgery is intimidating for many people. If you have questions, call our Austin office at 512-328-8900, and one of our podiatrists will be happy to address any concerns you have. Or, if you’d rather contact us online, use our convenient contact form, and we’ll be back in touch with you as soon as we can.