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Surgical Intervention; Is it for you?
By: IHI
06.04.14 Wednesday
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Life without the use of your upper extremities would be very difficult and depending on the issue, next to impossible to live life without the constant help from others.  However, the upper extremities are sometimes the most ignored parts of our body.  We work our hands, arms and shoulders hard and to the edge of exhaustion.  At the first sign of pain and discomfort, we rarely rest but push through the pain with a healthy dose of denial.  There is nothing worse than hearing your doctor say, “If you had come in sooner….” So, what about surgical intervention for upper extremity problems?  Surgery isn’t for everyone and not always the first line of defense against problems that arise.  There are basically 5 different treatment options used in the medical practice of an upper extremity physician.
  1. Exercise
  2. Medication
  3. Splinting
  4. Casting
  5. Surgery
Treatment doesn’t always follow this path for example an arm fracture isn’t going to benefit from exercise.  Exercise and rehabilitation will come after the cast and maybe even surgery.  The majority of doctors, after making a full assessment will often try physical therapy or exercise, even medication before considering surgery.  That is why consulting your physician when you first experience discomfort is important.  There are many options that can be considered and a cure can be achieved quickly in many cases, but if you wait too long, surgery may be your best and only option. What about surgery?  Surgery is often used when the other treatment modalities have failed or are not an option.  Surgery on the upper extremities is used to:
  • Relieve Symptoms
  • Restore Function
  • Replace tendons, muscles, and joints
Without surgery, problems can become so severe that restoration to the area cannot be accomplished effectively. Surgery doesn’t come without a price; a pocket book cost and a physical cost.  It will require a lengthy recovery period complemented with plenty of rest and rehabilitation.  Surgery also means you are opening yourself up to possible infection and delayed healing. There is an upside to surgery though.  Sometimes, it’s the only way, or at least the best way to restore quality to your life.  There are diseases and ailments that can cause deformity and limit your activity.  Oftentimes, surgery can turn all this around.  Having surgery doesn’t necessarily mean it will be a long, drawn out ordeal.  A lot of the time, it can be a quick procedure and well worth the time and effort. Surgery can be a great resource for chronic pain.  There are times when surgery is a good intervention to advanced arthritis, especially when swelling around the wrist puts the tendons at risk for rupturing. Surgery of the upper extremities should be something you discuss with a trusted orthopedic doctor who specializes in the upper extremities.  Generally speaking, a well-trained doctor will approach each situation with a customized plan of care just for you.  They will discuss with you your best treatment options and, if surgery is the needed intervention, will be there with you every step of the way.
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