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Cortical reorganization after macroreplantation at the upper extremity: a magnetoencephalographic study

Kathrin R. Blume, Caroline Dietrich, Ralph Huonker, Theresa Götz, Elisabeth Sens, Reinhard Friedel, Gunther O. Hofmann, Wolfgang H. R. Miltner, Thomas Weiss
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/brain/awt366 757-769 First published online: 29 January 2014


With the development of microsurgical techniques, replantation has become a feasible alternative to stump treatment after the amputation of an extremity. It is known that amputation often induces phantom limb pain and cortical reorganization within the corresponding somatosensory areas. However, whether replantation reduces the risk of comparable persisting pain phenomena as well as reorganization of the primary somatosensory cortex is still widely unknown. Therefore, the present study aimed to investigate the potential development of persistent pain and cortical reorganization of the hand and lip areas within the sensory cortex by means of magnetoencephalographic dipole analyses after replantation of a traumatically amputated upper limb proximal to the radiocarpal joint. Cortical reorganization was investigated in 13 patients with limb replantation using air puff stimulation of the phalanges of both thumbs and both corners of the lower lip. Displacement of the centre of gravity of lip and thumb representations and increased cortical activity were found in the limb and face areas of the primary somatosensory cortex contralateral to the replanted arm when compared to the ipsilateral hemisphere. Thus, cortical reorganization in the primary somatosensory cortex also occurs after replantation of the upper extremity. Patients’ reports of pain in the replanted body part were negatively correlated with the amount of cortical reorganization, i.e. the more pain the patients reported, the less reorganization of the subjects’ hand representation within the primary somatosensory cortex was observed. Longitudinal studies in patients after macroreplantation are necessary to assess whether the observed reorganization in the primary somatosensory cortex is a result of changes within the representation of the replanted arm and/or neighbouring representations and to assess the relationship between the development of persistent pain and reorganization.

  • cortical reorganization
  • macroreplantation
  • somatosensation
  • magnetoencephalography
  • somatosensory-evoked magnetic fields
  • primary somatosensory cortex
  • Abbreviations
    equivalent current dipole
    primary somatosensory cortex
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