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Postsurgical Inflammatory Neuropathy
  1. Kyle S. Ahn, MD*,
  2. Sandra L. Kopp, MD,
  3. James C. Watson, MD,
  4. Kenneth P. Scott, MD,
  5. Robert T. Trousdale, MD§ and
  6. James R. Hebl, MD
  1. From the *Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education and Departments of
  2. Anesthesiology,
  3. Neurology, and
  4. §Orthopedic Surgery, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Rochester, MN.
  1. Address correspondence to: James R. Hebl, MD, Department of Anesthesiology, Mayo Clinic, 200 First St SW, Rochester, MN 55905 (e-mail: hebl.james{at}


Objective: Perioperative nerve injuries are devastating complications that are commonly attributed to a variety of patient, surgical, or anesthetic factors. Well-documented causes of postsurgical neuropathy include nerve compression, stretch, contusion, or transection, which can occur following surgical trauma or patient positioning. Potential anesthetic causes of perioperative nerve injury include mechanical trauma, local anesthetic toxicity, and ischemic injury. We present a case of a diffuse, bilateral neurologic deficit of unclear etiology in a patient who underwent a combined neuraxial-general anesthetic for bilateral total hip arthroplasty.

Case Report: A 17-year old boy with end-stage Legg-Perthes disease presented with severe lower-extremity neuropathy of both legs following bilateral total hip arthroplasty under combined epidural-general anesthesia. A thorough workup excluded potentially devastating and treatable causes, including epidural hematoma or abscess and surgical bleeding or trauma. A neurology consultation and further testing (electromyography, nerve biopsy) resulted in a diagnosis of postsurgical inflammatory neuropathy. Treatment with prolonged, high-dose corticosteroids was undertaken, and although the patient's symptoms improved, he continues to have significant neurologic deficits 8 months after surgery.

Conclusions: Perioperative nerve deficits not readily explained by direct surgical or anesthesia-related causes should prompt early neurologic consultation to seek alternative etiologies such as postsurgical inflammatory neuropathy. Although this condition is poorly understood, it is believed to be an idiopathic immune-mediated response to a physiologic stress (eg, surgery, regional block) and is treated with prolonged, high-dose corticosteroids. Because suppression of the immune system with high-dose steroids may result in improved neurologic outcome, it is essential that surgeons and anesthesiologists are aware of this condition so that treatment is not delayed.

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  • This work is attributed to the Department of Anesthesiology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

  • This study has no financial sources.