Why Are There So Few Peripheral Nerve Surgeons?
This field of peripheral nerve surgery was pioneered by my mentor, Dr. Lee Dellon. He spent much of his early career doing basic science and clinical research to develop this field. Dr. Dellon did not start training other doctors in this field until about 15 years ago.
Learning how to do this surgery requires a full, additional year of training on top of all the other postgraduate surgical training a doctor does. Dr. Dellon was only able to train one doctor per year and did so for about the next decade or so. I was the second to last fellow he trained.
Of the ten or so doctors that did the training, one was from Austria and returned home after he was done. Most of the others were plastic surgeons by training. Only two of us, including myself were general/trauma surgeons by training. I also did an additional year of training in hand and microsurgery.
Here in the US, there are roughly ten doctors who have had the training. The majority of them, however, have made cosmetic or reconstructive plastic surgery the focus of their practices since completing their training with Dr. Dellon. They mostly limit themselves to the easier, more common types of peripheral nerve problems, for example, nerve decompression surgery for neuropathy pain.
Aside from Dr. Dellon and myself whose practices are 100% peripheral nerve surgery, there are only two other surgeons in the US who ave made peripheral nerve surgery the primary focus of their practice. One is in St. Louis, MO, and the other practices in Baltimore, MD.
In short, we are essentially witnessing the dawn of a brand new field of surgery and it is very difficult to create and disseminate new knowledge in medicine. In 50 years, this type of surgery will be as accepted and commonplace as orthopedic or any other type of surgery that we are familiar with in 2017.
If you or someone you know may have a peripheral nerve issue, contact Dr. Tollestrup. You can fill out the form on the right hand side of this page or call the office at 702-666-0463.