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(NBC) — Patients suffering from peripheral neuropathy, a painful, sometimes numbing nerve damage now have a surgical treatment option.

Diabetes is the main cause of condition, but lupus and lyme disease can also trigger it.

The pain often comes from compressed and swollen nerves.

The surgery works to relieve that compression.

It works, says University of Chicago plastic surgeon Ginard Henry, but only in carefully chosen patients whose nerve damage is in specific locations.

“Peripheral neuropathy is not always treated by surgery and you need to make sure that the patient knows what their option is,” Dr. Henry explained.

For other surgeons, the operation is a non-starter.

Anand Vora from the Northwestern University Medical Center is an orthopedic surgeon, and he believes only a few patients qualify.

He says it works best in mild cases of the disease, but that’s when medication works best as well.

And, he says the surgery can make things worse.

“If that nerve re-scars and the nerve again becomes trapped in the tissue, the pain can actually be dramatically more severe,” Dr. Vora said.

Good research studies on this operation’s success rate are sparse, leading the American Academy of Neurology to say “the benefits of the surgery are considered unproven”.


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