Common peroneal nerve neuropathy, or dysfunction, is a type of peripheral neuropathy, which is damage to any nerves outside the brain or spinal cord. Specifically, it is damage to the peroneal nerve, a branch of the sciatic nerve, which provides movement and sensation to the lower leg, foot and toes. Peroneal nerve neuropathy is the loss of movement or sensation in the foot and leg.
Damage to the nerve cells destroys the protective covering of the cell, called the myelin sheath, causing the entire nerve cell to degenerate. This leads to loss of sensation, muscle control, muscle tone and the eventual loss of muscle mass.
Why Choose MedStar Georgetown University Hospital to Treat Your Peroneal Nerve Neuropathy?
At the Peripheral Nerve Surgery at Georgetown University, our surgeons have performed more than 2,000 nerve surgeries. Not only do we have excellent outcomes in correcting peroneal nerve neuropathy, we have made innovations and advancements in the field that are used across the country. Learn more about nerve decompression and nerve reconstruction surgeries.
Peroneal Nerve Neuropathy Symptoms
Symptoms of peroneal nerve neuropathy include:
- Decreased sensation in the top of the foot, or the outer part of the upper and lower leg
- Numbness or tingling in that same area
- Weakness in the ankles or feet
- Walking abnormalities
- A "slapping gait," a walking pattern in which each step makes a slapping noise
- Foot drop, meaning you cannot hold your foot in a horizontal position
- Toes dragging while walking
Diagnosing Peroneal Nerve Neuropathy
Your doctor can perform a number of simple tests to diagnose peroneal nerve neuropathy.
- Physical examination. First, your doctor examines your legs, looking for a loss of muscle control of the legs and feet. Your foot or legs may have atrophied (lost muscle mass) as well.
- Movement tests. Your doctor checks if you have difficulty with dorsiflexion (lifting up your foot and toes) and with eversion (toe-out movements.)
- Biopsy. Your doctor may order a muscle or nerve biopsy, but those procedures are usually not necessary.
Your doctor may also order tests to determine the level of nerve activity, including:
- Electromyography (EMG). A test that checks the health of the muscles and nerves. Your doctor inserts a very thin needle electrode through your skin into your muscle. The electrical activity on the monitor gives your doctor information about your muscle's ability to respond when the nerves to that muscle are stimulated.
- Nerve Conduction Study (NCS). A test of the speed of the electrical signals through a nerve. Patches called surface electrodes are placed on your skin over nerves at certain locations. Each patch gives off a mild electrical impulse to stimulate the nerve. The resulting electrical activity from the nerve is recorded, and the doctor can determine the speed of the nerve signals. This test is often done at the same time as an EMG.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging Scan (MRI). A scan that looks for a compressive lesion along the nerve.
Your doctor may order other tests, based on the suspected cause of the nerve dysfunction, your personal history, your symptoms and the specific pattern of symptom development. You may be sent for blood tests, X-rays, scans or other procedures.
Peroneal Nerve Neuropathy Treatment
If your doctor determined that an illness or other source of inflammation is causing the neuropathy, then that will be treated first.
Surgical Treatment for Peroneal Nerve Neuropathy
If conservative methods, such as lifestyle changes and medications, are not effective in treating your peroneal nerve neuropathy, you may be a candidate for peripheral nerve surgery. Surgical decompression of the area may reduce your symptoms if the problem is caused by something putting pressure on the nerve. For example, if there is a tumor or other condition that presses on the nerve, the doctor will remove the tumor or mass.
Peripheral nerve surgery may be necessary if:
- Your condition is persistent
- The symptoms get worse
- You have difficulty with movement
- There is evidence, based on diagnostic testing, that the nerve axon is degenerating