The nervous system is a complex network of nerves that conduct impulses from the brain and spinal cord to different parts of the body. The central nervous system consists of the brain and spinal cord while nerves that carry messages to all other parts of the body form the peripheral nervous system. Nerves are affected causing neuropathy in diabetes mellitus, median, radial, tibial or axillary nerve dysfunction, neurosarcoidosis and necrotizing vasculitis.
Nerve biopsy is a procedure to examine a section of the nerve from the body to understand the pathological condition that causes nerve damage. Numbness, weakness and pain are often experienced by patients having neuropathy. A nerve biopsy determines the extent of nerve damage on myelin sheath—covering of the nerves, small nerves, neuropathies and on axons—fibre like extensions of nerve cells that conduct impulses.
Patients who are advised a nerve biopsy undergo a complete physical examination and a detailed medical history is recorded by the physician. If a patient is on any anticoagulants or analgesics he is asked to avoid them before the procedure. Routine blood tests are done to rule out any pathology.
Sensory nerve biopsy, selective motor nerve biopsy and fascicular nerve biopsy are three types of nerve biopsies done on the ankle, forearm or on the rib after a systematic physical examination of the patient who requires a nerve biopsy. A doctor makes a small incision to cut a portion of the nerve under local anaesthesia which is later sent to the laboratory for further investigation. The incision is then sutured with stitches.
Nerve biopsy often is a risk to patients as it causes infection or allergic reaction to the tissues. But it is a crucial diagnostic procedure done to know the damage on nerves. A definite treatment protocol can be started post laboratory findings and results are obtained several weeks after nerve biopsy.