What is the Seddon classification of nerve injuries?

Updated: Jun 08, 2018
  • Author: Charles F Guardia, III, MD; Chief Editor: Nicholas Lorenzo, MD, MHA, CPE  more...
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Various systems have been proposed for classifying nerve injuries. Seddon in 1972 and Sunderland in 1978 took similar approaches to this classification. Seddon stratified nerve injuries into the following three levels [62] :

  • Neurapraxia - This is a transient episode of complete motor paralysis with little sensory or autonomic involvement, usually occurring secondary to transitory mechanical pressure; once the pressure is relieved, complete return of function follows

  • Axonotmesis - This is a more severe injury involving loss of continuity of the axon with maintenance of continuity of the Schwann sheath; motor, sensory, and autonomic paralysis is complete, and denervated muscle atrophy can be progressive; recovery can be complete but depends on a number of factors, including timely removal of the compression and axon regeneration; the time necessary to recover function depends on the distance between the denervated muscle and the proximal regenerating axon

  • Neurotmesis - This is the most serious level of injury, entailing complete loss of continuity both of the axon and of the Schwann sheath; recovery rarely is complete, and the amount of loss can only be determined over time; regenerating axons without intact neural tubes reinnervate muscle fibers that were not part of their original network

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