Humans use our entire bodies to move and function on a daily basis, but the necessary functions of the upper extremity - or the arm, including the shoulder, elbow, and hand — include feeding ourselves, cleaning ourselves, getting dressed, and more.
From riding horses to mountain biking to snowboarding, upper-extremity injuries happen in a variety of ways around Steamboat Springs.
At Steamboat Orthopaedic & Spine Institute, Drs. Patrick Johnston and Andreas Sauerbrey are fellowship-trained specialists of the upper extremity. Dr. Sauerbrey completed Shoulder and Elbow Fellowship training at the University of Pennsylvania and Hand Fellowship training at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. Dr. Johnston completed a hand, elbow, and microvascular surgery fellowship at Ohio University in Dayton.
Aside from injuries, common hand and elbow ailments in Steamboat include carpal tunnel syndrome, thumb arthritis, trigger finger, and lumps and bumps of the hands and wrists. The risk for these ailments really depends on the condition, but many show up in a person’s 30s and 40s, and some are due to overuse or repetitive hand and wrist activities.
Seeing an orthopaedic surgeon for treatment doesn’t always mean you’ll end up in surgery. SOSI’s goal is to provide patients with enough education about operative and non-operative treatments, or interventions such as an injection or hand therapy.
According to Dr. Johnston, “Beyond the functions of the upper extremity that are necessary for life, there are many functions that are necessary for lifestyles, like holding ski poles, climbing, biking, typing, cooking and other functions of one’s occupation or life. These functions all require sensation, strength and stability.”
An upper-extremity surgeon works to help patients have the function needed for their daily activities without the limitations of pain. The hand, in particular, is a complex area of the body, with 27 bones in the hand and wrist, all of which articulate to form different joints.
Dr. Johnston has more than five years of experience in “wide awake, local anesthesia, no tourniquet,” or WALANT, surgeries. By doing surgeries under local anesthesia alone, it saves the patient money and allows the surgeon to get immediate feedback during the procedure. This saves the patient and the insurance companies money and also provides a more comfortable experience for the patient.
Injections include steroid injections, numbing medicine or lidocaine, depending on the problem and what the surgeon is trying to treat. The most common diagnoses that Drs. Johnston and Sauerbrey perform injections for include trigger finger (when a finger gets stuck in flexion and pops into extension), arthritis, and tennis elbow (a type of tendinitis).
Occupational therapists specializing in hands are an essential part of orthopaedic hand treatment. With the anatomy of the hand being so complex and the motion of the hand so important to the function, hand therapists are critical to obtain the results SOSI seeks in surgical and nonsurgical treatments.
The Steamboat Orthopaedic & Spine Institute comprises a dedicated, local, and highly-trained staff of ten physicians and dozens of medical care and support staff, bringing world-class medicine to northwest Colorado, southern Wyoming, and the surrounding region. Alongside the team of specialists, SOSI also has a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist and a physiatrist who specializes in the evaluation of spinal and musculoskeletal disorders, non-operative spine care, including epidural injections, and EMG and global orthopaedic assessments.