Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Color of Nerves

This is a letter I received from N., whose national identity clearly weighs heavily, asking a great question that reminded me that there are lots of people who do NOT see parts of the human body exposed all day long.

My name is N. and I come from Austria not Australia! I would like to learn what colour nerves are.I am studying the nervous system and I know that we have trillions and trillions of nerves in our body.I hope you have an answer to my question.

So I told her:

Thanks for clarifying where you're from. People must get that confused a lot, and expect you to know a lot about kangaroos and things. How bothersome.

We certainly do have a lot of nerves in our bodies. Far too many for anyone to count. Most of them are so tiny that you can't see them at all, but the ones that you can see are a very pale yellow, almost white! I wish that things in the body were as clear in the operating room as they are in the books, but in reality it can be really hard to tell what's what, since most things are sort of pink/red and they are all stuck together. We have to be very careful to make sure that we don't cut things we're not supposed to, obviously, so we dissect very carefully to find all the nerves, arteries, and veins. The nerves look and feel a lot like rubber bands, while the arteries feel like little garden hoses, and the veins feel like floppy tubes.

Sometimes we have to cut nerves in order to be able to do the surgery properly and make the patient better. What do you suppose patients with cut nerves feel when they wake up? Actually, most of the time, they never even notice! There are so many nerves that even if you cut some of them, the skin is still covered with plenty of others. But sometimes, people have a little bit of numbness over the skin where we cut the nerve. Even then, other nerves will sometimes grow into that area and the numb feeling will go away with time. Pretty amazing, huh?

I hope that helps to answer your question. Please let me know if you have any more questions, and I'll do my best to answer them too!


Anonymous said...


Unknown said...

What does it mean when the nerve is purple

Amy Adams said...

What does it mean when the nerve is purple

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the one who asked the question, also the one who answered... I could get my doubt cleared... Thanks a lot:)