6 Stories of Orthopaedic Doctors Making the World a Better Place

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Every day, medical researchers, surgeons and specialists work together to advance the field of orthopaedics in an effort to improve the lives of patients.

Often, this work goes unnoticed and uncelebrated outside of the field, which is understandable because an individual innovation can appear so technical. If you simply consider a story within the context of doctors and researchers working to makes people’s lives better, though, the reasons to celebrate become clear.

Below are six recent stories we felt deserve some recognition. The orthopaedic surgeons and specialists featured here have done great work to advance the field and to potentially help generations of people lead healthier, more mobile, more comfortable lives.

That’s certainly worth celebrating.


Dallas Orthopaedic Surgeon Saves a Patient’s Arm With a First-Of-Its-Kind Procedure in the US

In September, Dr. Richard Buch became the first surgeon in the United States to perform a total humerus replacements using the Modular Universal Tumor And Revision System, developed in Germany.

Dr. Buch, an orthopedic surgeon at The Dallas Limb Restoration Center, had a patient who had undergone seven previous surgeries on a severely infected arm, and the patient had been told it would have to be amputated.

“I wanted to try and save this man’s arm, as the arm is the most difficult limb to lose,” Dr. Buch said last fall.

Instead of amputation, Dr. Buch stabilized the patient’s arm and began working with the FDA to get approval to use MUTARS. After four months, he was granted approval and performed the surgery.

It was a success. Not only did the patient avoid amputation, but he has also regained some functionality in the arm.


New Jersey Hospital Learns Value of Having Specialists Collaborate

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In early December, the Northern New Jersey edition of MD News did a nice profile on University Hospital’s Orthopaedics Department in Newark, highlighting the fact that the department’s collection of multi-subspecialty experts allows for some innovative treatment options.

The piece first tells the story of a patient who risked losing a large portion of his thumb when having a tumor excised. With input from the department’s hand specialist and a microvascular surgeon, however, enough of the patient’s thumb was preserved for it to remain largely functional, a big win.

Another area of synergy is oncology, the piece reports:

“Orthopedic oncology specialists — Dr. [Joseph] Benevenia, Francis Patterson, MD, and Kathleen Beebe, MD — collaborate with University Hospital radiologists and medical oncologists to treat musculoskeletal tumors. In addition to chemotherapy and radiotherapy, orthopedic oncologists use limb-salvaging and limb-sparing procedures to treat challenging tumors, such as sarcomas.

“Additionally, in the same way microsurgical and hand experts may be called into oncology treatment, orthopedic oncologists may participate in treatment for other conditions.”

Kudos to Chair of Service Dr. Benevenia and his team for what they are able to achieve through collaboration. This is a piece worth reading.


Orthopaedic Surgeon in Pittsburgh Performs First ToeMotion Total Toe Implant

Here is another story, from last summer, about an innovative orthopaedic device manufacturer working with an innovative surgeon to change patients’ lives.

In June 2014, Dr. Carl Hasselman performed the first implant of Arthrosurface’s ToeMotion, a system that had gained FDA approval just months before and allows for less invasive joint restoration, at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

The ToeMotion Total Toe implant relies on familiar technology, a HemiCAP fixation system that uses screws to hold the implant in place, which allowed Dr. Hasselman to perform the procedure successfully. “The instant fixation, immediate weight-bearing and early motion is critical to the excellent outcomes my patients have experienced with the Arthrosurface system over the past decade,” he said.

Taken on its own, this is simply a story of technological innovation, but the bigger picture is that the innovation of orthopaedic devices is allowing patients to retain greater movement, comfort and mobility in their surgically repaired foot or ankle.

“Today, patients are looking for an alternative to a toe fusion in order to preserve their mobility,” said Dr. Thomas San Giovanni, who co-designed the ToeMotion Total Toe alongside Dr. Hasselman and Arthrosurface.

“Although toe fusion procedures can provide pain relief, they do not restore normal biomechanics and severely limit motion. Never moving their toe again is not a very appealing option to patients.”


Google Glass in the Operating Room?

Healio published a fascinating piece in November that looked at the possibility of augmented reality devices — specifically Google Glass — being used by surgeons in the operating room. The pieces authors are below:

  • Brent A. Ponce, MD
  • Mariano E. Menendez, MD
  • Lasun O. Oladeji, MS
  • Charles T. Fryberger, BS
  • Phani K. Dantuluri, MD

The authors suggests that Google Glass or similar devices could prove valuable in allowing remote viewing by other surgeons in real-time, and a case study was set up between local surgeons in Alabama and remote surgeons in California.

What the case study found was that currently Google Glass has too many drawbacks to be very useful — there are line-of sight issues, battery life concerns, and low-resolution video problems — but the idea itself could prove useful in the future.


Orthopaedic Surgeon in Iowa Brings Back New Techniques From Italy

Healthy Cells Magazine reported in February on a conference that took place in Northern Italy, and how connecting with colleagues from around the world inspired one orthopaedic surgeon in Davenport, Iowa.

Dr. Tyson Cobb, who specializes in hand and upper extremity procedures, presented his own findings on minimally invasive arthroscopic hand surgery in Arezzo, Italy, then brought back with him a new approach for treating osteoarthritis in the fingers.

“Specifically, Dr. Cobb discovered new surgical advancements in finger distal interphalangeal (DIP) total joint replacement for joint arthritis from Dr. Dave Elliot, a leading hand surgeon in England,” the Healthy Cells piece reads.

“The DIP joint is the joint of each finger closest to the fingernail. It is frequently involved in osteoarthritis, and can be a very painful and disfiguring condition.”

Dr. Elliot’s procedure — which he has used in more than 130 cases — has shown promise in maintaining range of motion for the DIP joint while relieving the severity of the pain patients experience.

Now, Dr. Cobb in Davenport has the only practice in America offering the procedure, and we salute his commitment to innovation.


Georgia Surgeons Help the Homeless During the Holidays

One last story. It is a bit off-topic, but it’s such a touching story that it needs to be told.

Two surgeons from Resurgens Orthopaedics, Georgia’s largest orthopaedic clinic, participated in the Our Hearts to Your Soles event in Atlanta last Thanksgiving. That event helps local homeless individuals by giving them foot exams, as well as new socks and shoes.

“One man came up to us and said we had given him hope that night, that anything seemed possible after such a wonderful day,” Dr. Gary Stewart, who specializes in a number of foot and ankle issues, said. “Hope sometimes can be found in a new pair of shoes.”

Dr. Sourendra Raut, a foot and ankle and sports medicine specialist, echoed those sentiments. “It is an honor and a privilege to be able to give back to our community in this way.”

There are 50 Our Hearts to Your Soles programs around the country, and this one, which took place in downtown Atlanta, served 63 homeless men. Our thanks to Drs. Stewart and Raut, and everyone around the country lending a helping hand to those in need.


images by:
Brooklyn Morgan / Unsplash
Jdominici / Pexels