Cortical reorganization after digit-to-hand replantation.
Wiech K., Preissl H., Lutzenberger W., Kiefer RT., Töpfner S., Haerle M., Schaller HE., Birbaumer N.
Functional recovery after digit-to-hand replantation depends on the interaction of various factors. In addition to peripheral mechanisms, cortical and subcortical reorganization of digit representation may play a substantial role in the recovery process. However, cortical processes during the first months after replantation are not well understood. In this 25-year-old man who had traumatically lost digits II to V (DII-V) on his right hand, the authors used magnetoencephalographic source imaging to document the recovery of somatosensory cortical responses after tactile stimulation at four sites on the replanted digits. Successful replantation of DIV and DV was accomplished at the original position of DIII and DIV with mixed innervation. Cortical evoked fields could be recorded starting from the 10th week after digit-to-hand replantation. Initially, signals from all sites showed decreased amplitudes and prolonged latencies. In the subsequent six recordings obtained between the 12th and 55th week postreplantation, a continuous increase in amplitude but only a slight recovery of latencies were observed. Components of the recorded somatosensory evoked fields were localized in the primary somatosensory cortex (SI). The localizations of the replanted DIV showed a gradual lateral-inferior shift in the somatosensory cortex over time, indicating cortical reorganization caused by altered peripheral input. The authors infer from this shift that the original cortical area of the missing finger (DII) was taken over by the replanted finger. From these data the authors conclude that magnetic source imaging might be a reliable noninvasive method to evaluate surgical nerve repair and that cortical reorganization of SI is involved in the regeneration process following peripheral nerve injury.