The surgical treatment of painful traumatic neuromas

K. J. Burchiel, T. J. Johans, J. Ochoa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Pain following suspected nerve injury was comprehensively evaluated with detailed examination including history, neurological evaluation, electrodiagnostic studies, quantitative sensory testing, thermography, anesthetic agents, and sympathetic nerve blocks. Forty-two surgically treated patients fell into four discrete groups: Group 1 patients had distal sensory neuromas treated by excision of the neuroma and reimplantation of the proximal nerve into muscle or bone marrow; Group 2 patients had suspected distal sensory neuromas in which the involved nerve was sectioned proximal to the injury site and reimplanted; Group 3 patients had proximal in-continuity neuromas of major sensorimotor nerves treated by external neurolysis; and Group 4 patients had proximal major sensorimotor nerve injuries at points of anatomical entrapment treated by external neurolysis and transposition, if possible. Patient follow-up monitoring from 2 to 32 months (average 11 months) was possible in 40 (95%) of 42 patients. Surgical success was defined as 50% or greater improvement in pain using the Visual Analog Scale or pain relief subjectively rated as either good or excellent, without postoperative narcotic usage. Overall, 16 (40%) of 40 patients met those criteria. Success rates varied as follows: 44% in 18 Group 1 patients, 40% in 10 Group 2 patients, 0% in five Group 3 patients, and 57% in seven Group 4 patients. Twelve (30%) of 40 patients were employed both pre- and postoperatively. It is concluded that: 1) neuroma excision, neurectomy, and nerve release for injury-related pain of peripheral nerve origin yield substantial subjective improvement in a minority of patients; 2) external neurolysis of proximal mixed nerves is ineffective in relieving pain; 3) surgically proving the existence of a neuroma with confirmed excision may be preferable; 4) traumatic neuroma pain is only partly due to a peripheral source; 5) demographic and neurological variables do not predict success; 6) the presence of a discrete nerve syndrome and mechanical hyperalgesia modestly predict pain relief; 7) ongoing litigation is the strongest predictor of failure; and 8) change in work status is not a likely outcome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)714-719
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of neurosurgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1993


  • discrete nerve syndrome
  • microsurgery
  • neurolysis
  • neuroma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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