Reconstruction of extensive nerve defects is hampered by the amount of autogenous nerve tissue available for transplantation and by donor site morbidity. Nerve allografts, being of foreign origin and potentially unlimited in supply, provide a solution to these problems. Studies have shown that nerve allotransplants require immunosuppression only until end-organ connections are made and that immunosuppressant therapy may be subsequently discontinued with no negative effect on functional outcome. Also, recent experimental and clinical focus has been on shorter periods of immunosuppression in order to reduce risk, even stopping immunosuppression after regeneration has reached the distal suture line rather than before recovery of end-organ connections. In the pediatric population, the increased disease burden and increased potential for nerve regeneration as well as the frequent availability of a living related donor make allografts all the more attractive as solutions to nerve reconstructive problems. Nevertheless, the risks of immunosuppression must not be underemphasized, and they deserve more attention in the current nerve transplantation literature. The authors report on a child who, at the age of 1 year, received a nerve allograft from a living related donor who was positive for Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). The child quickly developed a symptomatic EBV infection concurrent with immunosuppressant drug therapy. The immunosuppression regimen was stopped prematurely, and the patient suffered only a short illness, but the EBV infection could have developed into a life-threatening posttransplant lymphoproliferative disorder (PTLD). The patient is consequently predisposed to develop PTLD and will have to be monitored for the rest of his life. This case highlights the importance of considering the potentially fatal risks associated with this elective procedure. Future studies are needed to quantify and minimize this complication. Nevertheless, it should be weighed against the potential functional benefit from using nerve allografts.
- Epstein-Barr virus infection
- Nerve allograft
- Obstetric brachial plexus palsy
- Posttransplant lymphoproliferative disorder
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology