Easier way to fix damaged nerves

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Posted: Friday, May 10, 2013 3:58 pm | Updated: 4:38 pm, Wed Jul 3, 2013.

When a nerve is injured, pain, numbness, and loss of sensation are common. Fixing damaged nerves used to mean patients had to sacrifice another nerve from their body, but now there's an easier way

Jesse head steals a kiss from his girl. He doesn't take the little things like this for granted since doctors found a large benign tumor in his jaw. "Just a general visit to the dentist and he found it on an x-ray."

The tumor ran from here to here and needed to be removed. But surgeons would also have to cut out Jesse's teeth, some of his jaw, and part of a large nerve. "I'm dealing with nerves that involve sensation."

Doctor John Zuniga says taking a graft from the leg used to be the only way to repair a damaged nerve, but it leads to permanent numbness in the leg. "It's a nerve injury to fix a nerve injury."

Instead, the doctor used part of a cadaver on Jesse. Avance is an engineered nerve from a deceased donor. It's placed between the damaged segments and nerves regenerate through tiny tubes. "It's scaffolding. It's like a biologic scaffolding."

It helped Jesse keep the sensation in his face and mouth. Today, he's almost back to normal.

And he has a big event to look forward to!

Doctor Zuniga says he's seeing similar results with the FDA approved cadaver nerve as he sees when using a patient's own nerve. He says the most common causes of facial nerve damage include wisdom teeth extractions, jaw reconstructive surgery, dental implants, and needle injection injuries.

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