Peripheral Nerve Disorder Care

If a peripheral nerve condition is affecting your quality of life, turn to UC San Diego Health.

We are a regional leader in care for nerve pain, nerve compression injuries, nerve trauma, and other disorders of the peripheral nerves.

What are Peripheral Nerves?

Peripheral nerves are an integral part of the human nervous system. The nervous system consists of:

  • Central nervous system (brain and spinal cord)
  • Peripheral nervous system

Peripheral nerves reside outside your brain and spinal cord. They relay information between your brain and the rest of your body.

The peripheral nervous system is divided into two main parts:

  • Autonomic nervous system (ANS): Controls involuntary bodily functions and regulates glands
  • Somatic nervous system (SNS): Controls muscle movement and relays information from ears, eyes and skin to the central nervous system

Nerves in the Peripheral Nervous System

  • Brachial plexus (radial nerve, median nerve, ulnar nerves)
  • Peroneal nerve (foot drop)
  • Femoral nerve
  • Lateral femoral cutaneous nerve
  • Sciatic nerve
  • Spinal accessory nerve
  • Tibial nerve

Nerve Pain and Injury Specialists

Our specialists are able to quickly diagnose and treat nerve-related functional impairments and nerve tumors using leading-edge surgical techniques.

Conditions We Treat

Nerve Sheath Tumors

The nerve sheath is the tissue that covers and protects the nerves. Nerve sheath tumors grow directly from the nerve itself. They usually develop randomly but occasionally can be caused by a health condition or syndrome, such as neurofibromatosis (type 1 and type 2).

Nerve tumors are one of the following:

  • Benign peripheral nerve sheath tumor (e.g., neurofibromas, schwannomas)
  • Malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor (sarcoma)

Neurofibromas and schwannomas are non-cancerous and are the most common type of nerve tumor.

Also See Acoustic Neuroma

Peripheral nerve tumors usually grow slowly and may be noticed as a lump somewhere in the body. They can interfere with normal activities, causing discomfort, tingling or even numbness, weakness and severe pain.

Patients often consider removing these tumors when they become problematic. Removal can usually be performed without destroying the nerve. The tumor usually can be resected out of the nerve itself without harming the nerve's function.

Cancerous Nerve Tumors

Peripheral nerve sheath tumors are rarely malignant (cancerous).

Cancerous peripheral nerve tumors are more problematic, painful and grow rapidly. If there is any question about whether or not a tumor is cancerous, it is important to get a needle biopsy or special study done to be sure.

If the tumor is believed to be cancerous, surgery is performed to remove all of the tumor, including a large portion of the nerve from which the tumor came. Nerve function, which may be lost with the removal of the tumor, can later be improved with the use of nerve transfers.

Brain Tumor Diagnosis and Treatment

Nerve Pain

We treat nerve pain such as meralgia paresthetica, occipital neuralgia, inguinal neuralgia and neuromas.

Nerve Compression

Surgical treatment to decompress the nerve may be considered for entrapment neuropathies such as carpal tunnel, thoracic outlet syndrome and peroneal neuropathy.  

Nerve Injuries

Trauma and sometimes even other surgical procedures can result in paralysis and disability in particular nerves. Our peripheral nerve experts can treat these nerve injuries (including brachial plexus and facial nerve injuries) and restore function.

Personalized Care Plan

We get to know patients so we can work with you to develop a customized plan that meets your goals and improves your quality of daily living. This can include non-surgical treatments as well as surgery.

Nonsurgical Treatment for Peripheral Nerve Disorders

  • Acupuncture
  • Medication for neuropathy and pain management
  • Physical therapy and rehabilitation
  • Orthotics
  • Injections and stimulators

Surgical Treatment for Peripheral Nerve Disorders

Tumors, Cancer and Inflammatory Conditions

  • Open and minimally invasive nerve tumor surgery (schwannoma, neurofibroma, malignant nerve tumors)
  • Robotic-assisted nerve tumor surgery for thoracic, abdominal and pelvic nerve tumors
  • Nerve biopsy for neuromuscular disease or metastatic cancer to nerves

Nerve Injury

  • Nerve transfer surgery for improved function
  • Nerve decompression, repair and nerve grafting to repair the injury directly
  • Nerve surgery for spasticity with brain or spinal cord injury
  • Phrenic nerve stimulation for diaphragm paralysis 

Peripheral Nerve Pain or Weakness

  • Nerve decompression surgery (such as carpal tunnel, ulnar nerve, peroneal nerve, tarsal tunnel, thoracic outlet, etc.)
  • Nerve removal surgery (neurectomy) for pain (such as meralgia paresthetica)
  • Regenerative peripheral nerve interface or targeted muscle reinnervation for neuroma treatment