Electricity has permeated almost every sector of our lives. We use it to run machines and manufacture goods, to light our homes and help us to drive safely in the dark, to provide our entertainment and even to treat health problems. When the grid goes down, our normal pace of life comes to a halt. You have an electric “grid” in your body, too—your nervous system. It is run from your brain, but it affects the way your body behaves down to your littlest toe. When something keeps the system from functioning properly, nerve surgery may be required to restore full use of your feet.
Who Would Need Surgery?
There are several categories of nervous system dysfunction that may require a surgical procedure to resolve. One is tumors. These are growths in the sheath surrounding the nerve, and removing the tumors surgically is the standard treatment. If the tumor is cancerous, further chemo and radiation will likely follow the surgery. With Morton’s neuroma (nerve thickening, rather than a tumor) an entire nerve section is sometimes removed to alleviate the pain.
Injuries to nervous tissues are also common. When they are damaged by trauma, they could be severed, requiring immediate repair or a nerve graft. They could also become compressed by scar tissue, which can be removed without doing anything to the nerve itself—a procedure called external neurolysis. For example, after an ankle injury, scar tissue that entraps the nerves in the tarsal tunnel can be removed with surgery (tarsal tunnel release). The same procedure can be used to cut out tissue that is pressing on the peroneal nerve and causing foot drop.
What Does Nerve Surgery Involve?
Some procedures are simple, done with local anesthetic, possibly right in our office. Others may require general anesthetic and are performed in the hospital—as an outpatient, or followed by admission for further monitoring and treatment. In any case, an incision will be made; the tumor, scar tissue or part of the nerve will be removed, or the nerve will be repaired (with or without a graft); and the site will be cleaned, dressed and bandaged.
How Long Will It Take to Heal?
Recovery time will vary, depending on what type of procedure you have done and how extensive it was, but you should plan on limiting activity for some time even after simple procedures. If the nerve was removed, you just need time for the incision to heal. With decompression surgery, you may feel immediate relief from pain because the tissue pressing on the nerve is gone. With repair of nervous tissue, it will take a few weeks for regeneration to begin. Remember: nerves grow slowly—about an inch per month. It could take several months for you to regain complete feeling and use in your feet after repair of a severed nerve. Physical therapy can greatly help to maintain function while the tissues heal.
If you need nerve surgery on your feet or ankles, you want to be under the care of an expert. At Atlantic Foot & Ankle Associates in Florida, our podiatrists are highly trained to deal with every type of foot treatment, including surgery. Call one of our five offices today and set up an appointment so you can say goodbye to nerve pain!