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Keywords:

  • Nerve;
  • surgery;
  • trigeminal nerve;
  • repair;
  • graft

Abstract

Nerve surgery in the maxillofacial region is confined to the trigeminal and facial nerves and their branches. The trigeminal nerve can be damaged as a result of trauma, local anaesthesia, tumour removal and implant placement but the most common cause relates to the removal of teeth, particularly the inferior alveolar and lingual nerves following third molar surgery.

The timing of nerve repair is controversial but it is generally accepted that primary repair at the time of injury is the best time to repair the nerve but it is often a closed injury and the operator does not know the nerve is injured until after the operation. Early secondary repair at about three months after injury is the most accepted time frame for repair. However, it is also thought that a reasonable result can be obtained at a later time.

It is also generally accepted that the best results will be obtained with a direct anastamosis of the two ends of the nerve to be repaired. However, if there is a gap between the two ends, a nerve graft will be required to bridge the gap as the two ends of the nerve will not be approximated without tension and a passive repair is important for the regenerating axons to grow down the appropriate perineural tubes.

Various materials have been used for grafting and include autologous grafts, such as the sural and greater auricular nerves, vein grafts, which act as a conduit for the axons to grow down, and allografts such as Neurotube, which is made of polyglycolic acid (PGA) and will resorb over a period of time.