Peripheral nerve vein wrapping for intractable lower extremity pain.
HYPOTHESIS/PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to determine the effectiveness of lower extremity peripheral nerve vein wrapping procedures in the management of patients with intractable lower extremity pain. The hypothesis was that nerve insulation through vein wrapping is effective in treating symptoms related to adhesive neuralgia, but not those secondary to intraneural damage. METHODS: We retrospectively reviewed 25 consecutive patients whose intractable chronic lower extremity peripheral neuralgia had been treated with revision neurolysis and vein wrapping. The 14 women and 11 men had an average age of 39 years (range, 21 to 53 years). Vein wrapping was performed using a saphenous vein autograft in 19 patients and a fetal umbilical vein in six patients. The average length of follow-up after vein wrapping was 24 months (range, 12 to 63 months). Assessment of pain and dysfunction was on a scale of 0 (no pain/dysfunction) to 10 (severe enough to prompt request for amputation and required use of a wheelchair). RESULTS: Pain scores improved from a preoperative average of 8.7 points (range, 6 to 10 points) to a postoperative average of 4.6 points (range, 0 to 10 points); dysfunction improved from a preoperative average of 7.3 points (range, 3 to 10 points) to a postoperative average of 4.4 points (range, 0 to 9 points). Although 17/25 patients were satisfied with the procedure, only 14/25 stated they would undergo the surgery again. All eight patients who exhibited no improvement had preoperative and intraoperative evidence of an idiopathic etiology and/or intraneural damage. Preoperatively, 18/25 patients could not work; postoperatively, that number improved to 8/25. CONCLUSIONS: Vein wrapping of lower extremity peripheral nerves is most effective in relieving symptoms related to adhesive neuralgia and less beneficial in the presence of intraneural damage. Although symptoms are rarely relieved completely, vein wrapping typically results in a substantial improvement in symptoms related to scar entrapment of peripheral nerves.
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