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The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery British Volume
Vol. 89-B, Issue 7 | Pages 933 - 939
1 Jul 2007
Ya’ish F Cooper JP Craigen MAC

The diagnosis of nerve injury using thermotropic liquid crystal temperature strips was compared blindly and prospectively against operative findings in 36 patients requiring surgical exploration for unilateral upper limb lacerations with suspected nerve injury. Thermotropic liquid crystal strips were applied to affected and non-affected segments in both hands in all subjects. A pilot study showed that a simple unilateral laceration without nerve injury results in a cutaneous temperature difference between limbs, but not within each limb. Thus, for detection of a nerve injury, comparison was made against the unaffected nerve distribution in the same hand.

Receiver operating characteristic curve analysis showed that an absolute temperature difference ≥ 1.0°C was diagnostic of a nerve injury (area under the curve = 0.985, sensitivity = 100%, specificity = 93.8%).

Thermotropic liquid crystal strip assessment is a new, reliable and objective method for the diagnosis of traumatic peripheral nerve injuries. If implemented in the acute setting, it could improve the reliability of clinical assessment and reduce the number of negative surgical explorations.