Nerve Injury and Pneumonectomy

Any surgery carries a risk of nerve injury, and a pneumonectomy is no exception. Because the nerves near your skin are so small, it's impossible to not damage some of them during surgery. In most cases, these repair themselves without problems. In rare cases, however, nerves fail to heal. Symptoms that indicate a problem with nerve injury and a pneumonectomy include loss of feeling and problems with muscle control.

Nerve Injury and Pneumonectomy: An Overview

Your brain and spinal cord help control all of your actions and how your body works. They control things like walking, breathing, and speaking. This is done by sending signals to every part of your body through nerves. Nerves also carry signals back to the brain from organs like your eyes and ears. These signals tell you what you are seeing and hearing.
Nerves are thicker closer to your brain and spinal cord. But as they get farther away from the brain, they continue to branch out and become very small and thin.
Because the nerves near your skin are so small, it's impossible to have a surgery and not cut them. Nerves usually heal with your skin after the surgery, but sometimes, nerves are cut and they don't heal. This is called nerve damage. In some cases, nerve damage can affect a large part of your body; in other cases, it only affects a small area. It might only last for a short time, or it might last the rest of your life.
Nerve damage can cause symptoms such as:
  • Pain in muscles, bones, or skin
  • Loss of feeling
  • Difficulty controlling your muscles.
These symptoms often go away over time, but in some cases, additional surgery may be needed.
In a pneumonectomy, there are some specific nerves that may be damaged. In order for your surgeon to reach your lung, the ribs must be spread apart. Under each rib is a nerve that provides sensation and function to chest wall muscles. As the ribs are spread, this nerve can be damaged. This may cause chronic pain in the back and chest, and may cause you to lose feeling in your chest and upper abdomen.
Also, you will be laid on your side during the pneumonectomy. Though your arms and shoulders will be cushioned, pressure on the nerves in these areas may cause loss of sensation or decreased strength in the hand, arm, or shoulder. This is usually temporary, but it can cause long-term disability.
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