Nerve Transfer Surgery

A nerve transfer is a procedure used to repair a damaged nerve by connecting it to healthy nerve tissue. Unlike nerve grafts, the donor nerve is not removed and transplanted into another location — instead, it is disconnected at one end and reattached to the severed end of a damaged nerve. This procedure is often used to restore function after nerve damage caused by an injury, stroke,spinal cord injury, nerve compression, or another condition that affects the nerves. 

Conditions Treated

  • Brachial plexus injuries
  • Nerve injuries
  • Nerve lacerations
  • Cubital tunnel syndrome
  • Guyon's canal syndrome
  • Pronator teres syndrome
  • Radial tunnel syndrome
  • Suprascapular nerve entrapment
  • Wrist drop (Saturday night palsy)
Procedure Time
1-2 hours or 4+ hours (depending on severity)
Treatment Location
In-Clinic / Our Surgery Center (outpatient) / Hospital (in-patient)
General Anesthesia
Recovery Time
12-24 Months

Benefits of Nerve Transfer Surgery

Nerve transfers offer patients the potential to regain arm and hand function that may not be achievable otherwise. When successful, it can dramatically improve function and independence.

  • Restore mobility and use of the affected limb
  • Regain control and strength
  • Avoid need for immobilization or assistive devices
  • Improve quality of life and independence
  • Reduce pain
  • Prevent atrophy and limb dysfunction
  • Can be combined with tendon transfers

Are You a Candidate?

Nerve transfer surgery may be an option for you if you have lost limb function due to a nerve injury that has failed to recover. Good candidates have no other underlying injuries or health conditions that could impact nerve regeneration. However, this surgery may not be recommended if the nerve damage is chronic or significant time has passed since the initial injury.

Find Your Surgeon

Our surgeons are fellowship-trained hand and upper extremity specialists with years of focused training in peripheral nerve surgery. This expertise is crucial for performing intricate nerve transfer techniques. In addition to research and clinical trials to advance nerve transfer surgery and stay on the cutting edge of new developments, we perform a high volume of nerve transfers and nerve reconstruction procedures each year with excellent success rates. 

What to Expect



Nerve transfer surgeries can take several hours, especially when treating severe damage. However, you will be placed under general anesthesia to keep you comfortable and ensure you remain asleep for the entire procedure.


Your surgeon will begin by making an incision and selecting a branch of a healthy nerve near the damaged nerve. Then, they will separate the healthy nerve at one end and reroute it to the open end of a non-functional nerve. 

After connecting the two nerves and handling any other necessary repairs, the surgeon will suture the incision closed and cover it with a bandage. They may also attach a stabilizing device, such as a brace, to temporarily restrict movement during healing.


Depending on the complexity of the surgery, your health, and your medical history, you may be able to return home within hours after surgery, or you may be required to stay overnight for observation. Your care team will provide after-care instructions, such as steps for proper incision care and tips to support healing


Your surgeon will likely recommend you keep your incision covered for at least three weeks. Additional post-surgery recommendations and restrictions will depend on which nerves were affected and where on your body the surgery was performed.

Some patients notice sensations returning within 3 to 6 months, but nerves often take at least a year to heal fully. Remember that the further the damaged area is from your spinal cord, the longer it may take to recover. Once function begins to return, your surgeon may recommend physical therapy to help re-strengthen surrounding muscles and support further healing.

Real people. Real results.

Meet Joe,

Who underwent nerve transplant surgery to restore the functionality of his arm.

After being critically injured in a motorcycle accident that left his arm paralyzed from severed nerves, Joe Malone underwent a rare living donor nerve transplant surgery performed by Dr. Andrew Elkwood. The procedure, using nerve grafts from Joe's leg and mother, allowed him to start regaining feeling and muscle twitches in his previously paralyzed arm just months after the operation.

Patient Resources

Visit our Patient Resource Center online to access useful information such as intake forms, tips for your first appointment, ways to prepare for surgery, and more.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the risks and side effects of nerve transfer surgery?

While nerve transfers are generally safe, all surgeries have risks. Risks from nerve transfer procedures may include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Blood clot
  • Chronic pain
  • Scarring
  • Diminished nerve function at the donor site
  • Complications from anesthesia
Will I regain full strength and range of motion after surgery?

Many patients regain near full strength and motion if the nerve transfer is successful. Complete recovery depends on factors like age, injury severity, and adherence to rehab.

Does insurance cover nerve transfer procedures?

Most insurance plans cover medically necessary nerve transfer surgery. Our team helps verify your benefits and coverage prior to treatment.

Do I need to immobilize the limb after surgery?

Immobilization is not usually required. Early guided movement will be incorporated into your recovery plan.

How do you monitor the progress after surgery?

Frequent clinic visits allow the care team to clinically assess strength and function. Nerve conduction tests may also be used to track regeneration.

Does smoking or medical conditions impact success?

Yes, smoking and conditions like diabetes that affect circulation and nerve healing can negatively impact outcomes. Your doctor will discuss optimizing modifiable factors.

HUES Surgeons

Restore Your Grasp on Independence