A 25-year-old engineer whose shoulder and elbow were left paralysed after a road traffic accident six months ago underwent a microsurgery intended to restore partial function of the limbs in a city hospital recently.

The patient from Mayiladuthurai sustained injuries to the brachial plexus, a network of nerves emerging from the spine near the neck, branching out to the shoulder, arm, and hand. The injury can make everyday activities like eating, writing or putting on a shirt difficult, according to hand and microsurgeon, Terrence Jose Jerome, who operated on the patient at Olympia Hospital and Research Centre, Puthur.

A microsurgery, a surgical procedure using an operating microscope, was performed to transfer multiple nerves – nerves with less important roles were transferred to restore the functioning of damaged nerves. Delicate sutures about one-tenth in diameter were also part of the surgery that lasted for seven hours. The patient was discharged on the third day of surgery and continues to recuperate. The procedure cost around Rs.50,000.

Around 40 to 60 per cent of function can be restored in the patient, though the rate of success is higher if the surgery is performed within three to six months of the injury, said Dr.Terrence. Brachial plexus injuries can happen during a fall from a motorcycle, but awareness that such injuries can be treated is low, feels the operating team, including general surgeon K.Thirumagal and anaesthetist Satish. Olympia Hospital plans to conduct a campaign to spread awareness on these injuries.