Drop foot, or foot drop, is caused when your peroneal nerve is damaged, rendering you unable to walk normally, lift your foot at the ankle, point your toes toward your body, or turn your foot laterally at the ankle. The peroneal nerve can be injured in a variety of ways and there are a variety of treatment options available, one of the most common being surgery.
The surgical procedure known as decompression involves review and analysis of the affected nerve to locate any areas of pinching. If found, the tissues surrounding the area are removed to relieve pressure and restore the flow of nerve signals. This surgery is not used in cases of torn nerves; however, it has been shown to be very effective in instances of peroneal-nerve swelling. (Ref. #1)
Nerve grafting is the surgical option if you are suffering a torn peroneal nerve. It involves using a healthy nerve from another part of the body to replace the damaged portion of the peroneal nerve. Medical researchers have yet to determine why this grafting procedure works more successfully with other nerves than it does with the peroneal. (Ref. #1)
Dr. Rahul Nath, MD, Director of the Texas Nerve and Paralysis Institute, has paved the way for the use of nerve-transfer surgery to relieve drop foot. The procedure reroutes part of a tibial nerve into the peroneal to restore the flow of nerve signals, giving power enough to enable the patient to lift and rotate her feet. (Ref. #1)
When nerve surgery is not possible, foot drop can be relieved with a tendon transfer in which the posterior tibial tendon is used to stabilise the ankle which causes improved gait and restores ability to point your toes and rotate your ankle. (Ref. #1)
Nerve surgery should be scheduled soon after you notice symptoms of foot drop. If you wait longer than eight months to take action, nerve reconstruction is considered impossible. It is advised that you seek surgery within four to six months and that you be aware that surgery can help or hurt. Since healthy nerves are being used to replace damaged ones, there is always the risk, even if small, that you might lose function in the areas from which the healthy nerves are taken.