Peripheral nerve injuries represent a notable source of anesthetic complications and can be debilitating. The objective of this study was to identify associations with peripheral nerve injury in a broad surgical population cared for in the last decade.
At a tertiary care university hospital, the quality assurance, closed claims, and institution-wide billing code databases were searched for peripheral nerve injuries over a 10-yr period. Each reported case was individually reviewed to determine whether a perioperative injury occurred, defined as a new sensory and/or motor deficit. The location and type of the injury were also identified. Nerve complications as a result of the surgical procedure itself were excluded, and an expert review panel assisted in the adjudication of unclear cases. Patient preoperative characteristics, anesthetic modality, and surgical specialty were evaluated for associations.
Of all patients undergoing 380,680 anesthetics during a 10-yr period, 185 patients were initially identified as having nerve injuries, and after review, 112 met our definition of a perioperative nerve injury (frequency = 0.03%). Hypertension, tobacco use, and diabetes mellitus were significantly associated with perioperative peripheral nerve injuries. General and epidural anesthesia were associated with nerve injuries. Significant associations were also found with the following surgical specialties: Neurosurgery, cardiac surgery, general surgery, and orthopedic surgery.
To our knowledge, this is the largest number of consecutive patients ever reviewed for all types of perioperative peripheral nerve injuries. More importantly, this is the first study to identify associations of nerve injuries with hypertension, anesthetic modality, and surgical specialty.