Innovative Therapies Giving Patients a Hand

If you’ve experienced pain in your hand or wrist, you understand the frustration of trying to accomplish seemingly simple tasks. Hand and wrist issues like arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome and vascular conditions can make day-to-day life extremely difficult. However, Jeffrey Kutsikovich, M.D., a hand and upper extremity specialist at the Bone and Joint Institute of Tennessee, says new therapies and approaches to surgery are getting patients back to full function more quickly. “We’re doing a lot of innovate work at the Institute with our therapy program. We have the ability to use evidence-based medicine to get patients moving more,” Kutsikovich said.

Innovative Therapies

Unlike traditional treatment after hand surgeries, Kutsikovich and the team of hand and upper extremity specialists are putting patients into removable, custom splints after procedures rather than casts. “We’re using a therapy protocol that gets patients out of casts and moving instead of immobilizing them for weeks after tendon repairs or other hand surgeries,” Kutsikovich said. “Using evidence-based medicine, we’ve found that having patients in custom-fitted splints and working with one of our certified hand therapists is helping them recover faster.” While there are a limited amount of certified hand therapists in the country, there are three, Laura Davis, OTR/L, CHT; Renee Simpson, OTR/L, CHT; and Jenna Frye, OTR/L on staff at the Institute, and Kutsikovich says the close working relationship between the surgeons and therapists is extremely beneficial to patients. “We have a kind of one-stop shop for hand surgery,” Kutsikovich said. “Having surgery is just the first step; effective therapy is another essential step for full recovery. We have a team approach here. It’s not just a surgeon doing a surgery, there is a continuum of care with other disciplines that work together to get you the best results, and I think that’s one of the great things about our system.”

New Techniques

While new early motion therapies are helping patients recover more quickly, Kutsikovich also says performing procedures solely with local anesthesia is helping patients save money and reduce the risk for complications. “We can basically do any procedure in the hand using local anesthesia instead of putting the patient completely under,” Kutsikovich said. “It ends up costing less and reduces the risk that can be associated with anesthesia.” Kutsikovich says this technique is especially helpful in tendon repair surgeries. “We can have patients make a fist and straighten out their hand during the procedure to ensure that the repair is working well as opposed to waiting for a patient to wake up from anesthesia to test the surgery,” Kutsikovich said.

Conservative Treatment

For many patients, Kutsikovich says, more conservative treatment options are available for issues such as carpal tunnel or arthritis. “Typically, treatments like splinting, steroid injections, anti-inflammatory medications and paraffin wax baths can alleviate patients’ pain, and we try these with almost all patients before we consider surgery,” Kutsikovich said.

About Jeffrey Kutsikovich, M.D.

Jeffrey Kutsikovich, M.D., is a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon specializing in treatment of the hand, wrist, elbow and shoulder. He earned his medical degree in 2010 from the Ohio State University College of Medicine and completed his residency in orthopaedic surgery at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center Campbell Clinic. He also completed fellowship training at the Indiana Hand to Shoulder Center in Indianapolis. He is a member of the American Society for Surgery of the Hand and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Kutsikovich serves as the team physician for Independence High School and is one of the surgeons at the Bone and Joint Institute Tollgate Clinic.