The radial nerve travels from the brain, down the underside of the arm to activate the muscles that extend the fingers and wrist. “If the radial nerve is damaged, the wrist and hand droop and the fingers won’t work,” Dr. Ruch explained.
Tendon transfer surgery can repair the radial nerve and restore function to the hand. During the procedure, Dr. Ruch moved portions of healthy muscle and tendons from one part of Beth’s arm to replace those injured during the accident. “The procedure allows ‘borrowed’ muscle to take on the job of the old muscle,” he said. “It’s really quite amazing.”
In Hufner’s case, forearm muscle was used to lift the wrist up, a working wrist muscle was transferred to lift the fingers up, and a finger muscle was used to lift the thumb up. “Movement doesn’t return immediately after surgery,” Dr. Ruch explained. “The transferred muscle and tendon have to be taught how to do things through physical therapy and hard work.”
A hand brace kept Hufner’s newly placed muscles and tendons in place as they healed. “In order to stretch the tendons, my hand was in a perpetual ‘high-five’ for about a month,” said Hufner who endured grueling hand therapy under the guidance and watchful eye of occupational therapist Julie Lunich, CHT, OTR/L. “Julie and my rehab team pushed me hard, and many tears later, I’m thrilled to report, we did it!” Hufner said.
Hufner wore several braces while while waiting for her hand to regain function.