New Advanced Microsurgery Saves Wrist Function for Patients with Kienbock’s Disease Curtis National’s James Higgins, MD, Becomes First US Doctor to Perform Surgery | MedStar Health

New Advanced Microsurgery Saves Wrist Function for Patients with Kienbock’s Disease Curtis National’s James Higgins, MD, Becomes First US Doctor to Perform Surgery

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BALTIMORE—(July 1, 2016) — In a novel surgery not available anywhere else in the United States, Dr. James Higgins, chief of the Curtis National Hand Center at Baltimore’s MedStar Union Memorial Hospital, used a microscopic technique to transplant bone, cartilage and blood vessels into the wrist of a patient with Kienbock’s disease.  The extremely painful and debilitating condition, for which there is no known cause, typically affects young male patients in the teenage years or twenties.  If left untreated, the wrist develops progressive arthritis and loss of function, even at this young age. 

Keinbock’s disease and can happen to anyone.  For no clear reason, the lunate, one of eight small bones in the wrist, loses blood supply, (avascular necrosis) and the bone collapses.  Crumbled bone fragments wear down cartilage and cause chronic pain. 

higgins microsurgeryIn the 5-hour surgery, Dr. Higgins and his specialized team, removed a precisely-shaped segment of cartilage, bone and tiny sub-millimeter blood vessels from the knee joint, and transferred it to the wrist to replace the deteriorated lunate bone. The transplanted piece is meticulously reperfused with blood when Dr Higgins connected the minute arteries and veins from the knee tissue to blood vessels in the wrist with the use of a microscope. 

"It is an exciting new threshold for reconstructive surgery.  I am proud that our center is being a part of this pioneering work," said Dr. Higgins.

 The 27-year old patient from Baltimore, a real estate business man, could alternatively have had the surgery in Austria, where the only other hand surgeon in the world has used this technique successfully.  He has made a full recovery.

The patient is available for interviews. 

To learn more about The Curtis National Hand Center, click here.

About The Curtis National Hand Center
Since 1975, people all over the world have placed their hands in ours – The Curtis National Hand Center. From repairing traumatic injuries to treating repetitive motion injuries, arthritic conditions and congenital differences, our goal is to restore the patient's use of the hand, wrist, arm, elbow and shoulder to the greatest degree possible. Our long history of experience, outstanding medical staff, and state-of-the-art facilities combine to create a treatment center that is the first choice in caring for the hand or arm, no matter how common or complex.

Today, The Curtis National Hand Center is recognized as the largest, most experienced hand center in the nation. In fact, the hand center was designated by Congress as the National Center for the Treatment of the Hand and Upper Extremity.

About MedStar Union Memorial Hospital
MedStar Union Memorial Hospital is a not-for-profit, 249-bed acute care teaching hospital with a strong emphasis on cardiac care, orthopaedics and sports medicine. As one of the region's top specialty hospitals, MedStar Union Memorial has been caring for members of the community for more than 160 years.

We are renowned for The Curtis National Hand Center, Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Heart Institute, and our Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine program. In addition, we offer a comprehensive range of inpatient and outpatient services including diabetes and endocrinology, eye surgery, general surgery, oncology, thoracic surgery, vascular surgery and palliative care.


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