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Targeted Muscle Reinnervation: Surgical Protocol for a Randomized Controlled Trial in Postamputation Pain

By Emily Pettersen

Over the past decade, the field of prosthetics has witnessed significant progress, particularly in the development of surgical techniques to enhance the functionality of prosthetic limbs. Notably, novel surgical interventions have had an additional positive outcome, as individuals with amputations have reported neuropathic pain relief after undergoing such procedures. Subsequently, surgical techniques have gained increased prominence in the treatment of postamputation pain, including one such surgical advancement – targeted muscle reinnervation (TMR). TMR involves a surgical approach that reroutes severed nerves as a type of nerve transfer to “target” motor nerves and their accompanying motor end plates within nearby muscles. This technique originally aimed to create new myoelectric sites for amplified electromyography (EMG) signals to enhance prosthetic intuitive control. Subsequent work showed that TMR also could prevent the formation of painful neuromas as well as reduce postamputation neuropathic pain (e.g., Residual and Phantom Limb Pain). Indeed, multiple studies have demonstrated TMR’s effectiveness in mitigating postamputation pain as well as improving prosthetic functional outcomes. However, technical variations in the procedure have been identified as it is adopted by clinics worldwide. The purpose of this article is to provide a detailed step-by-step description of the TMR procedure, serving as the foundation for an international, randomized controlled trial (, NCT05009394), including nine clinics in seven countries. In this trial, TMR and two other surgical techniques for managing postamputation pain will be evaluated.