Carpal Tunnel Surgery Returns Hartford Farmer to Field of Dreams
Steven Trinkl, M.D.
The Orthopedic Institute of Wisconsin
Six years ago, Pat Weibye left a stressful engineering job to join his wife in a labor of love in family farming. As the owners of B’s Bouquets in Hartford, Pat and his wife Nancy plant and harvest over 12 acres of flowers to sell atfarmers’ markets and to local upscale grocery stores.
“It’s so rewarding,” says Pat. “With all the hard work comes the pleasure of knowing that our flowers are bringing happiness into people’s lives.” That’s something Pat wants to do for many more years, but there was a period of time when he wondered about the reality of his dream.
“Three years ago, I noticed numbness and tingling in my hands,” he recalls. “At first, it was just an annoyance, but eventually I was losing sleep because of pain. It was frustrating and limiting. I tolerated it until last fall, then I just couldn’t do it anymore.”
Pat’s symptoms were caused by carpal tunnel syndrome, a common condition that occurs when tendons or ligaments in the wrist become enlarged. The narrowed “tunnel” of bones and ligaments in the wrist pinches the nerves that reach the fingers and the muscles at the base of the thumb. Symptoms range from a burning, tingling numbness in the fingers to difficulty gripping and making a fist.
“Carpal tunnel syndrome often is a result of repetitive work-related activities,” says Steven Trinkl, MD, an area orthopedic specialist with fellowship training in hand and wrist surgery. “People used to have to live with it. Today, there are highly effective treatment options.” The first important step is an accurate diagnosis. After carefully examining Pat, Dr. Trinkl ordered a nerve conduction study at the Aurora Health Center in Hartford. This new NeuroMetrix test, which can be used in most, but not all, patients, has the advantage of near-immediate results and does not use needles as in other tests.
Since Pat had already tried non-surgical treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome, such as resting the wrist in a splint and medications to reduce swelling, Dr. Trinkl recommended carpal tunnel release surgery. During this operation the carpal ligament is cut to enlarge the carpal tunnel.
“If carpal tunnel syndrome is caught early in development, carpal tunnel release surgery is 98 to 99 percent effective,” says Dr. Trinkl, who performs it on an outpatient basis at the Aurora Medical Center in Hartford. “It involves a very small incision and quick recovery. Patients generally are in a splint for a week then back to full activities in three weeks.”
“It’s the best thing I ever did,” says Pat, who had the surgery on both wrists last November. “I noticed immediate relief after each operation – like night and day. By January, I was swinging a golf club in Florida, and this past spring, I was back to work on the farm… without pain.”
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