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August 15, 2011

Welding a Cut Nerve Together Using a Laser

Although preliminary, researchers have successfully "welded" a cut nerve together using a laser rather than traditional suture repair.

When a nerve is cut, the only way to allow potential for the nerve to regain function is to bring the cut edges together and hope nerve regeneration crosses over. Traditionally, this was pain-stakingly accomplished under the microscope using sutures as thin as a human hair.

Using the rabbit facial nerve, researchers used a laser to weld the cut nerve edges together rather than using sutures and demonstrated a trend towards superior outcomes. Not only was the outcome better, it was way easier and faster to perform.

This new technique has tremendous application in ENT surgery, but can also apply to any surgery where nerves can get damaged or cut... vocal cord paralysis from thyroid surgery (recurrent laryngeal nerve), unable to lift shoulder from neck dissection (accessory nerve), facial paralysis from parotid gland tumor resection (facial nerve), etc, etc.

Reference:
Laser Facial Nerve Welding in a Rabbit Model. Arch Facial Plast Surg. Published online August 15, 2011. doi: 10.1001/archfacial.2011.61
Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids. Google+ Christopher Chang, MD Bio

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