Bringing Our Community Together

Category archive

Health

Hospital recognized for stroke patient care

in Health by

Beaufort Memorial Hospital has received the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s 2016 Get With The Guidelines-Stroke Silver Plus Quality Achievement Award for providing stroke patients with the most up-to-date, evidence-based care.

Recipients of the award must meet an aggressive goal of following treatment guidelines in certain key measures at least 85 percent of the time for 12 consecutive months or more and achieve a minimum 75 percent compliance with seven out of ten stroke quality measures during the 12-month period.

The quality measures are designed to help hospital teams provide appropriate treatment based on the latest scientific evidence with the goal of speeding recovery and reducing death and disability for stroke patients.

“Being honored for excellent patient care is the best recognition a hospital can receive,” said BMH President and CEO Rick Toomey. “By following demonstrated best practices, we’re able to improve outcomes, dramatically impacting the lives of our patients.”

According to current guidelines, clot-busting medication should be started within 60 minutes of a patient’s arrival in the hospital to minimize brain damage and potential complications. BMH physicians have consistently outperformed the “door-to-needle” goal, averaging 45 minutes in the first quarter of 2016.

The quick response time also earned BMH a place in the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association Target: Stroke Honor Roll, a designation given to hospitals that deliver intravenous thrombolytic therapy to acute ischemic stroke patients in less than 60 minutes at least 50 percent of the time.

To improve patient care for stroke patients in the community, Beaufort Memorial has taken full advantage of the Medical University of South Carolina Health Telestroke, a Web-based program that provides Emergency Department and Intensive Care Unit physicians with on-demand access with MUSC Health stroke experts for consultations.

Last year, BMH doctors treated 184 patients suffering a stroke and another 45 having a “mini stroke” known as a transient ischemic attack. Telestroke consultations were initiated in 159 of those cases.

“We have three great neurologists in Beaufort, but it’s difficult for them to be available immediately in our Emergency Department 24/7,” said BMH stroke coordinator Sheri O’Brien. “With the telemedicine cart, we can reach an MUSC Health neurologist within 10 minutes.”

When it comes to Zika, prevention is the best medicine

in Health by

With the warm weather and recent rains, Lowcountry residents are bracing for the arrival of summer’s biggest menace: the mosquito. The rampant spread of Zika has made a potential onslaught of the blood-sucking little buggers especially troubling this year.

As of June 3, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) had reported one confirmed case of Zika, a virus spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected mosquito. The individual had contracted the virus while traveling overseas and was not contagious by the time they returned home, DHEC officials said.

To date, all 618 reported cases of Zika in the United States have been travel-associated. No mosquitoes carrying the virus have been found anywhere in this country. But experts warn the start of mosquito season could likely lead to a local transmission.

“It’s only a matter of time before a mosquito carrying the virus crosses the continent and infects someone here in the United States,” said Dr. Kent Stock, an infectious disease specialist at Beaufort Memorial Hospital and Charleston’s Roper St. Francis Hospital. “It’s a significant threat.”

Dr. Claude Tolbert.
Dr. Claude Tolbert.

The World Health Organization has estimated Zika virus will infect 3 to 4 million people in the Western hemisphere by year’s end. There is no vaccine for the disease. The best way to prevent it is by avoiding mosquito bites, because the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus—the mosquitoes responsible for the spread of Zika in South America and the Caribbean—both reside in this area of the country.

“At this time, there is no immediate risk in the Lowcountry,” Stock said. “But we should all be taking steps to eradicate water sources where mosquitoes can breed.”

Symptoms of Zika—fever, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis or headache—are usually mild and last just a few days to a week. Most people infected with the virus never experience symptoms and may not even realize they have the disease.

However, the biggest health concern is for pregnant women who can pass the virus to their fetus. Experts recently confirmed that Zika has been linked to a birth defect that causes severe brain damage.

“Women who are considering conceiving should not travel to affected countries if it’s not necessary,” said Beaufort Memorial board-certified OB-GYN Dr. Claude Tolbert. “If they must go, they should protect themselves with mosquito repellant containing DEET, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants and try to stay in air conditioned areas.”

He also suggested similar precautions be taken this summer in the Lowcountry.

“Right now, the best approach we can take to prevent an outbreak of Zika is to make it as inhospitable for mosquitoes as we can,” Tolbert said. “If we’re not proactive, it could become an epidemic.”

Zika also can be transmitted sexually from an infected man to his partner. Until more is known, men who have traveled to an area with Zika should abstain from having sex with a pregnant woman or use a condom.

“Women who want to conceive should wait at least eight weeks after traveling to a Zika affected country,” Tolbert said. “If your sexual partner has been exposed, wait at least six months to have unprotected sex. The virus has been found in semen up to 62 days after blood has tested negative for Zika.”

Tolbert also advised pregnant women to talk to their healthcare provider if they or their male sex partner recently traveled to an area with Zika, even if they don’t feel sick.

“We don’t know at what point in pregnancy the baby is most at risk,” he said, “so it’s best not to take any chances.”

Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 4.48.45 PM

Goodbye, cataracts. Hello, intraocular lenses: How to decide what type of IOL is best for you

in Health by

By Dr. Mark S. Siegel

Approximately 25 million Americans have cataracts, the condition that causes cloudy, blurry or dim vision. Many will have cataract surgery each year to restore their vision.

During cataract surgery, the natural clouded lens is replaced with an artificial lens called an intraocular lens or IOL. What patients new to cataract surgery may not know is that they have a variety of IOL types to choose from, all with different benefits.

Types of IOLs include monofocal, multifocal, and toric lenses. To help people understand the differences between the lens types, here is a list of questions to consider when deciding on IOLs. The patient’s ophthalmologist will recommend which lens they believe is most appropriate for the patient based on his or her daily activities and other needs, but these questions may provide a good starting point.

HEALTH - Goodbye, Cataracts

Is cost or coverage a factor in your decision?

Not all IOL types are covered by insurance. But, Medicare and most insurance companies do cover the cost of the most traditional option, monofocal lenses. These lenses have been used for decades and are the most popular. Monofocals are set to provide the best possible, corrected vision at near, intermediate or far distances. Most people who choose monofocals have their IOLs set for distance vision and use reading glasses for near activities.

Do you often use smart phones, tablets or computers? Do you prefer to see both near and far and reduce the need for glasses?

Newer IOLs called multifocal lenses may enable wearers to see both near and distant objects. Meanwhile, they can also reduce or eliminate the need for glasses or contact lenses. But, these lenses are more expensive and not covered by insurance. In addition, the ability to read and perform other tasks without glasses varies from person to person.

Do you frequently drive at night?

If night driving is important, multifocal lenses may not be the best option. Side effects such as glare or halos around lights, or decreased sharpness of vision (also known as contrast sensitivity) may occur with these lenses, especially at night or in dim light. Most people adapt to these effects, but those who frequently drive at night may be more satisfied with monofocal IOLs.

Do you have moderate to advanced astigmatism?

With astigmatism, the cornea – the clear front window of the eye – is not round and smooth like a basketball, but instead is curved like a football. This distorts or blurs the ability to see both near and distant objects. People with significant degrees of astigmatism are usually most satisfied with toric IOLs. Toric lenses have extra built-in correction for astigmatism. People who want to reduce (or possibly eliminate) the need for eyeglasses may opt for an additional treatment called limbal relaxing incisions, which are typically performed at the time of cataract surgery. These are peripheral corneal incisions that are most commonly performed with a femtosecond laser during laser cataract surgery. Insurance does not cover laser cataract surgery with toric lenses or limbal relaxing incisions.

Whether a patient chooses laser cataract surgery or manual surgery, multifocal or toric IOLs, it is important to establish reasonable expectations with your ophthalmologist. That way both the patient and surgeon will have the best chance of meeting expectations and having the best possible outcome: a happy patient whose visual goals are achieved.

Dr. Mark Siegel, MD, FAAO  is the Medical Director at Sea Island Ophthalmology in Beaufort. He may be reached at 843-525-1500. Learn more at www.seaislandophthalmology.com.

Beaufort Memorial Hospital forms affiliation with MUSC Health for cancer clinical trials

in Health by

Beaufort Memorial (BMH) has entered into an affiliation agreement with the Medical University of South Carolina Health System (MUSC Health) to provide clinical trials through the National Cancer Institute-designated Hollings Cancer Center. The agreement allows qualifying cancer patients to participate in cutting-edge clinical trials locally.

The hospital also transitioned from its 15-year cancer services affiliation agreement with Durham, N.C.-based Duke Medicine, citing a need to build a stronger relationship with MUSC, a tertiary medical center where many local patients already travel for specialty providers and treatments.

“As the need for more specialized care grows, it only makes sense for us to enter into arrangements with the best medical providers closest to home,” BMH President and CEO Rick Toomey said. “Many of our physicians and patients have had strong ties to MUSC for years, and this affiliation helps to both formalize our relationship and provide greater access for the community.”

The cancer program’s affiliation with Duke Medicine began in 2000. According to Toomey, the agreement with Duke was specifically designed to help the hospital build and develop a first-class cancer center to allow patients to stay in Beaufort for much-needed radiation oncology services. The result was the Beaufort Memorial Keyserling Cancer Center, a 25,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility in Port Royal, S.C., that offers both radiation oncology and chemotherapy services in one location. The center opened in April 2006.

“The relationship with Duke Medicine and its team has been invaluable to us and to the community,” Toomey said. “Our affiliation with Duke helped us achieve everything we hoped it would, and has positioned us to provide comprehensive cancer services to our patients.”

Under the affiliation agreement with MUSC, Beaufort Memorial will begin enrolling qualified cancer patients in clinical trials for colon, breast, lung and other treatments. The list of available trials will be announced soon and will expand as both the program and local need grow.

“Today’s dynamic health care environment calls for innovative collaborations to deliver the best care at the best location for the patient,” said MUSC Vice President for Health Affairs and MUSC Health CEO Patrick J. Cawley, M.D. “Often that means care delivered in the local community close to home and family, and other times the best outcome may require better access to the highly specialized services delivered at MUSC Health.”

MUSC Health, MUSC’s clinical enterprise, is a nationally recognized health system consisting of four inpatient facilities and more than 100 care settings across South Carolina. It is the state’s leading provider of telehealth services, and one of only 69 NCI-designated cancer centers in the country.

In collaboration with local care providers, MUSC Health develops and implements innovative models of care delivery with the common goal of enhancing the health of all South Carolinians. Beaufort Memorial began offering telehealth services in affiliation with MUSC last year. Today, those services are available for stroke and pediatric patients. The two institutions also have recently coordinated the location of pediatric subspecialties in the area.

For more information about cancer services available at Beaufort Memorial and the Keyserling Cancer Center, call (843) 522-7925 or visit beaufortmemorial.org.

What do we do with doubt?

in Awakenings/Contributors/Health by

By Brittney Hiller

It’s time to punch doubt right in the kisser…

But, then again…What good would that do?

Punching doubt in the face sounds like a fun idea, especially when you can head to a local store and purchase a blow up clown or doll (your choice) and name it doubt and punch away…

But, I digress.

Doubt is not an evildoer nor is it something we should be ashamed of. Typically, doubt shows up as something that we have within us that we think we need to “get rid of.” However, what if we created a simple relationship to doubt that will help us have a better understanding and allow us to bust through it, coming out on the other end clean and content?

Here are my 2 Doubt Busting Moves for you:

When in Doubt, Let it out.

Seriously, let it out – get out your pen and paper and write down, what are your doubts surrounding? New job? Leaving old job? Relationship woes? Health concerns?

Write it all down – this is the first step to letting doubt, OUT.

Once you have it all written…

FACE IT Head On.

Now it is all out there – your doubt is smiling up at you from your glittery (or recycled paper) themed notebook and it is telling you everything you are missing out on because of doubt.

The work begins with facing doubt head on.

Here’s one more trick for you from my tool box that includes more writing. YES, more writing – but this time it’s FUN. Look at each one of your doubts and write down next to each one, the outcome you would LOVE to see occur; instead of what doubt already shows you.

How fun is that? It’s like you are writing a script of your very own play! {Hint, ’cause you are!}

Relationship woes? How would you LOVE to see that relationship actually look or pan out? Write it.

Job seems lacking? How would you LOVE to experience your job on a day-to-day basis? Write it down, viola’!

Each time you write it down you are giving a shiny NEW perspective to what doubt had seemed to fog up.

Isn’t that so fun?!

Here’s the juicy part – email me ONE doubt you busted (once it’s done) and share with me how you now feel after this exercise. I am so excited for your doubt busting journey and look forward to hearing from you.

BMH LifeFit Wellness Services Director wins first Lifetime Achievement Award

in Health by

The South Carolina Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (SCACVPR) has awarded the first ever Lifetime Achievement Award to Mark Senn, senior director of LifeFit Wellness Services at Beaufort Memorial Hospital.

“We created it with him in mind and named it the Mark Senn Lifetime Achievement Award to honor him for his dedication to the advancement of the profession,” said SCACVPR outgoing president Mark Clair. “He is the standard for everyone else to follow.”

One of the group’s longest-serving members, Senn helped draft the SCACVPR’s first set of bylaws in 1988 and has continued to serve on the leadership team during the last 30 years. He has been president of the organization twice and spearheaded a number of important initiatives. He also has served on the board of directors of the American Association of Cardiovascular & Pulmonary Rehabilitation.

The award was presented to Senn at the 28th Annual Symposium of the SCACVPR held in Columbia.

“It took me completely by surprise,” Senn said. “I knew the board had talked about creating a Lifetime Achievement Award to recognize folks who have made significant contributions to the organization, but I had no idea I was going to be the first recipient.”

A member of the Beaufort Memorial staff for 13 years, Senn has been instrumental in developing the hospital’s LifeFit Wellness Services and many of its programs, including Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehab, the Diabetes Care Center, the Community Health Improvement Program, the Wellness Center and the Employee Health Department. In 2006, LifeFit Wellness Services won the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation Innovation Award for the program’s unique and successful implementation of disease management through its LifeFit service line.

“I have a highly qualified staff and I appreciate the role they’ve played in accomplishing these things at the hospital,” said Senn. “I didn’t do this alone.”

Mark Senn
Mark Senn

Fractures

in Health by

By Edward Blocker, MD

The word “fracture” itself is often misunderstood. It simply means broken. People often think it is used to describe a trivial break of a bone. I’ve often heard people say, “thank goodness it’s just fractured.” However, the word fracture is used to describe all levels of severity when a bone is broken.

Edward R. Blocker, MD
Edward R. Blocker, MD

When you think of a broken bone, the most common type that comes to mind is a break that occurs from a fall or a direct blow. That’s one type of fracture. In the old days we used the term “compound” fracture to describe a broken bone that was associated with a cut on the skin. Often this skin injury is caused from within by a jagged edge of broken bone. Today we use the term “open” or “closed” to describe whether the skin is intact or not.

Another type of break is an avulsion fracture. These can occur when a ligament or tendon attached to a bone is stressed so hard that it plucks off a small piece of bone that it is attached to.

A stress fracture is an entirely different type of broken bone. Rather than occurring in an instant, as from a fall, these breaks develop very slowly over time and are typically the result of repetitive stress. Most of us have bent a wire back and forth multiple times and know what happens. The wire will begin to develop a weak spot, you’ll sometimes notice a whitish area develop, and then it breaks.

This is the same principle as what happens in the case of a stress fracture of a bone. Certain bones are more prone to this than others. A good example is a long skinny bone in our feet. Every time we take a step, these bones are stressed back and forth like that wire and can sometimes develop a stress fracture.

Fortunately, our bones can generally stand up to normal, everyday repetitive stresses caused by walking. They can even become stronger over time to accept increased stress. However, if we suddenly increase the amount of repetitive stress, a stress fracture can develop. A good example of this is a new Marine recruit that lands on Parris Island and begins prolonged running and walking. Or someone that tries to become a marathon runner in a few weeks. This isn’t an excuse to not exercise, just a reason not to ramp up your exercise level too quickly.

Another potential cause of a stress fracture is if the bone itself becomes weaker and can no longer stand up to its usual stress level. A good example of this is osteoporosis. In this case, the person may not be walking any more than usual, but the bone becomes weaker and can no longer stand up to everyday walking.

In general, most broken bones that occur from a fall or direct blow take about 6 weeks to heal. A stress fracture can take several months and requires at least temporary elimination of the repetitive stress. The repetitive stress commonly has to do with increased speed or distance in walking or running. Occasionally we will see other causes. One of the more interesting examples I’m aware of was when someone who was a competitive skeet shooter developed a stress fracture in one of the small bones of his shoulder.

Good bone health is the best way to prevent any of these fractures. This starts with regular exercise, not smoking, and a diet that provides adequate amounts of vitamin D and calcium. Calcium and vitamin D supplements are not always necessary. The calcium from dairy products is absorbed and utilized more readily than the same amount of calcium in a pill. The role of vitamin D is to get the calcium we consume to be absorbed rather than just passing through. One of the best sources vitamin D is sunlight.

So go out for a walk on a sunny day and enjoy a bowl of ice cream.

Edward R. Blocker, MD, is a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon with Beaufort Memorial Orthopaedic Specialists. A graduate of the Medical University of South Carolina, Dr. Blocker completed his internship and residency at the Greenville Hospital System University Medical Center and the Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children – Greenville Unit. He has been practicing in Beaufort for the past 18 years.

Free Medical Clinic in Ridgeland to hold open house June 9th

in Health by

Bluffton Jasper Volunteers in Medicine will unveil their long-awaited Ridgeland medical clinic during an open house at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, June 9, in Ridgeland at 11332 N. Jacob Smart Blvd. The Bluffton Jasper County Volunteers in Medicine provides medical services free of charge to individuals who are without health insurance, live or work in Great Bluffton or Jasper County and qualify based on income.

“Currently, a third of our patients come from Jasper County and of that a large percentage are from Ridgeland,” said Pam Toney, executive director of the Bluffton Jasper County Volunteers in Medicine. “Our patients find it difficult to get our Bluffton clinic, so this will help with transportation.”

The Ridgeland clinic has always been a part of the overall master plan. Planning began in December 2014, and has been a collaborative effort led by Lisa Hayes, a Liberty Fellow and part of the Aspen Institute. Together with community members in Jasper County and volunteers, Hayes worked out a strategic plan to facilitate the development of the Ridgeland clinic.

The Ridgeland clinic will initially offer primary care, but patients will also be able to receive gynecological services, cardiology, endocrinology, diabetic care, and nutrition at the Bluffton location.

Thanks to the Hilton Head, Beaufort and Sun City Lions Clubs, the Ridgeland clinic also will offer an ophthalmology exam room. Each Lions Club pledged $5,000 toward a project to completely outfit the eye exam room. The eye care services will be led by Dr. James Kondor and will be available to patients from the Bluffton-based clinic as well. The completion of the exam room and services plan to be available patients by the end of the summer.

“This is especially important for our diabetic patients because at the moment, we have nowhere to send them,” Toney said.

Toney said preparing the Ridgeland clinic has been a community effort affiliated with ACCESS Health of the Lowcountry Med-I-Assist and Pregnancy Center of the Lowcountry. Bluffton Jasper Volunteers in Medicine received a $77,500 grant for the clinic’s first year operation and remodeling from the Palmetto Electric Trust.

“This is a dream come true,” Toney said.

That beautiful still voice often tells me the things I don’t want to hear

in Awakenings/Contributors/Health by

By Susan Stone

There is a lovely Scripture that reads; “Be Still and Know that I am God.” It is my mother’s favorite quote from the Bible. For it is in the “stillness” that we hear a voice different from our own.

Recently a young man came to see me from Tennessee to go on his Vision Quest. Traditionally, a vision quest takes place in a natural setting. The Elders place the participant in an isolated area, surrounded by a twelve foot circle of salt (for protection). They may take a blanket and water with them, but no comforts of any kind. No pillow, no tobacco, no phone, no journal, no nothing. For three days there is only you and your surroundings. The participant does not know where the Elders are, only that they are safe and will be guarded during the quest.

Then the battle begins…the battle with EGO. It usually begins with; WHAT WAS I THINKING?!? THIS IS TOO HARD! I’M HUNGRY, I’M ITCHY, I NEED TO TALK! Did I mention you must also take a vow of silence? The whole point of going on a quest such as this, is to separate the voice that taunts you from the voice that guides you. If we cannot free ourselves from the tyranny of our egos, we are doomed to be bullied by it for the rest of our lives.

As long as I have been doing this work and teaching others to love the stillness, I still hear the voice that says; WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? YOU AREN’T SMART ENOUGH TO DO THAT. YOU SHOULD HAVE TAKEN THAT JOB. WHY CAN’T YOU BE LIKE EVERYONE ELSE? The difference is that today I recognize that voice as ego and I tell it to go away. It does not tell me the Truth. It replays old tapes that I heard from others or told myself. It is the voice that used to rule my world. Not anymore. This getting control of your ego is tricky business, because both voices sound just like you!

The voice that guides me is smarter than me. It always comforts me. It never chides or insults me. That beautiful still voice very often tells me things I don’t want to hear. Like; forgive that person for she is hurting and needs your love. Or, when I think I can’t afford to be generous, I will hear; you can’t afford not to be. The voice of ego loves to make excuses. It will give you every reason in the world for not following through with that which is for your highest good.

Vision Quests, although they should never be attempted alone and unsupervised…a mini-quest is perfectly safe. If you are dealing with a persistent ego, you may give this a try. Set aside one hour to be still and silent. I recommend going into a windowless room, turn off all lights, lay or sit in one place for just one hour… in the darkness…alone…in complete silence. You will be amazed at how quickly your ego will start screaming at you! It will do everything in its power to convince you that you are crazy for even trying this. The tantrum it will have will be almost deafening. Don’t worry, it will calm down. And when it does…a bliss you have rarely known in your life will come over you like a soft wave. You will hear a different voice congratulating your courage, a soft voice that will bring you comfort and peace.

Carpal tunnel syndrome

in Health by

By Dr. Edward R. Blocker

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common malady that most people have heard of. However, I find that many patients will call any hand discomfort carpal tunnel syndrome. Symptoms of this condition are classically numbness and tingling of certain parts of the hand and fingers. Aching, sore knuckles are something else — most likely arthritis.

HEALTH - NEW COLUMNIST blocker_casual (2)
Dr. Edward R. Blocker

Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by irritation of a specific nerve in our wrist called the median nerve. When this nerve is irritated, the symptoms that patients experience are usually described as numbness, tingling, or burning of the hand and fingers. Most of us will experience these symptoms at some time or another. If it occurs only occasionally and is temporary, it is usually nothing to worry about just as when your foot occasionally “goes to sleep” and resolves when you reposition it.

Because this is a problem with a specific nerve, the pattern of numbness and tingling will be very specific. Nerves are like electrical wires in your house. Your house wiring passes through a breaker panel. If you flip the breaker to your living room, only the living room lights go out. Similarly, our nerves provide sensation to specific parts of our body. In the case of our hand, the nerve that causes carpal tunnel syndrome (called the median nerve) provides sensation to our thumb, index, long, and half of our ring finger. This median nerve comes down our forearm and goes through a passage in our wrist before branching out into smaller nerves that go out to our thumb and these 3 ½ fingers.

This wrist “passage” is the carpal tunnel. Much like the breaker switch, when the nerve gets compressed as it passes through the carpal tunnel, it will lead to numbness and tingling in these specific digits. While there are three main nerves that provide sensation to specific parts of our hand and fingers, only the median nerve passes through the carpal tunnel. It’s how we are wired.

When a patient comes in with these complaints, they will often say their “whole hand goes to sleep.” However, if you really pay attention to what part of your hand and digits go numb while it’s happening, a pattern will usually emerge.

Symptoms can occur day or night. Classically, daytime symptoms occur with almost any hand intensive activity: driving, writing, typing, reading a book, etc. Many are quick to blame their job but this is often simply a condition of life. It also frequently occurs at night, sometimes waking you from sleep. This usually occurs because your arms are bent under your pillow and wrist flexed. This can put a “kink” on the median nerve as it passes through the carpal tunnel. Straightening out your wrist will alleviate the symptoms. This is why sleeping in a wrist splint that holds your wrist in slight extension can help you sleep through the night.

Diagnosing carpal tunnel syndrome is usually straightforward. As you now know, asking which fingers go numb is usually telling. A simple exam of the hand during the office visit can then be confirmatory. There is an objective test called a nerve conduction study that can be performed as well. In general, most of us diagnose this condition through questioning and physical exam, and will only obtain the nerve test in those cases that do not resolve with simple treatment and require surgery.

As far as treatment options, if it bothers you mostly with typing, modification of your workstation can help. Another simple option is the splint I just mentioned. The splint rests the nerve from repetitive flexing and holds the wrist in a position that allows maximal volume in the carpal tunnel. Any drugstore carries them. I usually start by having the patient wear it at least at night. Other options include anti-inflammatories (if your doctor says you can take them), cortisone injection of the carpal tunnel, and surgery. Anti-inflammatories and injections can work by quieting down inflammation of the nerve and/or the area around the nerve.

Carpal tunnel surgery involves releasing a ligament that forms part of the wall of the carpal tunnel thereby relieving compression on the nerve. It is usually a quick procedure that can be done in under 10 minutes. Although it is a quick procedure, I stress to patients that there is a more lengthy recuperation time. Also, nerves are unpredictable as to when they decide to “wake up” after surgery. Sometimes patients feel better in the recovery room, sometimes it takes several days, sometimes weeks.

Fortunately, not every case of carpal tunnel syndrome requires surgery. Treatment is often decided based on the degree that the symptoms bother you and can usually start with simple options.

Edward R. Blocker, MD, is a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon with Beaufort Memorial Orthopaedic Specialists. A graduate of the Medical University of South Carolina, Dr. Blocker completed his internship and residency at the Greenville Hospital System University Medical Center and the Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children – Greenville Unit. He has been practicing in Beaufort for the past 18 years.

1 2 3 46
Go to Top