I cut the ulnar nerve of my left hand when my hand went through the car windshield during an accident. I had the surgery six months ago. I remember the surgeon telling me the nerve would grow back but it takes a while. I still don't have full sensation or motor function. How much longer should I expect this to take?
Nerves to the arms and legs (down to the feet and hands) are referred to as peripheral nerves. They come out of the spinal cord and supply the limbs with sensation and motor function. Peripheral nerves can regenerate after an accident when they are cut. Crush injuries are less likely to recover. All of the nerves that travel to the hand and fingers begin together at the shoulder: the radial nerve, the median nerve, and the ulnar nerve. These nerves carry signals from the brain to the muscles that move the arm, hand, fingers, and thumb. The nerves also carry signals back to the brain about sensations such as touch, pain, and temperature. The ulnar nerve branches out to supply feeling to the little finger and half the ring finger. Branches of this nerve also supply the small muscles in the palm and the muscle that pulls the thumb toward the palm. Studies show that nerve regeneration takes place slowly but steadily. The healing nerve grows back at a pace of about one to two millimeters each day. A nerve transected near the elbow will take much longer to heal and recover compared to the same nerve cut down close to the wrist. So the range of expected recovery can up to one year when the nerve is transected at the elbow. You can figure this out for yourself if you know the approximate location of your nerve injury. Use a ruler with metric measurements and measure from the point of injury down to the tip of your ring finger (the furthest point innervated or supplied by that nerve). The total number of millimiters is the approximate number of days expected for complete recovery. Of course, there are individual factors that might slow (or speed up) healing. Good nutrition aids healing and recovery. Poor nutrition, tobacco use, and excessive alcohol intake can slow recovery. Good general health is a plus. The presence of other chronic illnesses and diseases such as diabetes or heart disease can slow things down. Your recovery so far is a helpful predictor as well. Attitude, personality traits, and response to pain are also predictors of healing. If you are still uncertain what to expect, don't hesitate to check with your surgeon for the best estimate for you.