Nerve transfers are a surgical technique used to restore function in people with a nerve injury. The Milliken Hand Rehabilitation Center is well known in the hand therapy world for its work with these patients due to their close relationship with the Washington University Physicians who are world-renowned for developing this type of reconstructive surgery. In the past 15 years, this surgery has been applied to individuals with cervical spinal cord injuries to help them regain some volitional movement in their hands. Following surgery, it is important for the patients to have adequate therapy to optimize outcomes. Lorna Kahn, PT, CHT has worked closely with Dr. Ida Fox for the past 15 years to develop such a program. After 4 years of writing, submitting, editing, and reediting their paper was finally published this month in Springer Nature’s Spinal Cord Cases and Series. Read the paper here.
The paper is a retrospective case series that reviews 9 individuals who had surgery and hand therapy at Washington University. A chart review was performed and data points that highlight the timing of recovery and the specific functional changes noted by the patients were gathered. Additional objective measures were included. The paper is designed to give therapists a general guideline for treating individuals who have had this surgery. The timeline for recovery is protracted and often both the individual and therapist discontinue treatment before the recovery is completed. We hope this paper will provide a framework for motor re-education after nerve transfers and improve outcomes for the patients.