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A traumatic neuroma is an area of increased sensitivity, and sometimes pain, that develops in the wake of physical trauma to a nerve. Surgery is the most common cause, but traumatic neuromas also can be caused by cuts, needle punctures and other events. Treatment of this condition usually involves evaluation by a neurologist and might require a surgery to remove the damaged nerve. This must be done with care to prevent an exacerbation of the situation.
After an injury, nerves will attempt to grow back, extending to cover or fill a gap created by the injury. Sometimes, the nerve cells start to grow in a disorderly fashion. They regenerate rapidly and randomly, creating a cluster of nerve cells that fire in all directions instead of a series of aligned fibers that can smoothly send signals about sensations. This is a traumatic neuroma, also known as an amputation neuroma, after one of the most common causes of this condition.
Any pressure on the area around the nerve can cause sharp, searing pain and discomfort. Sometimes the nerves fire randomly, without any sensory input, and might cause phantom pains and irritation for the patient. In some cases, the pain from a neuroma can be severe, and the patient might develop emotional distress and physical fatigue as a result of the chronic pain. A neurologist can evaluate the site and pinpoint the location of the traumatic neuroma.
Surgery to remove the bundle of errant nerve fibers is often the most appropriate and effective solution. The surgeon can carefully cut out the neuroma, and the patient's chronic pain should stop. One potential risk of surgery is that the traumatic neuroma might recur after surgery, potentially requiring multiple surgeries to remove new nerve growths. If it becomes persistent and does not respond to surgical treatment, the doctor might consider options such as nerve blocks to limit pain signals or electrical stimulation of the nerve.
The reasons for traumatic neuroma formation are unclear. Surgeons who perform the same procedures repeatedly might find that some patients develop neuromas, but others do not. Such growths can be linked to the nature of the trauma, but not necessarily, and different aftercare regimens do not appear to have a significant effect on neuroma formation. Some people who experience violent spontaneous amputation, such as in a car accident, heal without any nervous complications, but patients who undergo routine surgeries with carefully controlled trauma might develop recurrent neuromas.
Some people have a painful neuroma in the foot that surgery is often ineffective for as it can regrow. I've heard of people having success in alleviating pain by using custom orthotics.