Hand Surgery

Experts In Motion

George is a hand surgery patientGeorge Gustin was on his way to have an electrocardiogram last September, a requirement to renew his school bus driver license, when he tripped on the sidewalk and banged his hand. George, 69, said he felt a little sore, but he wasn’t overly concerned until several hours later, when his fingers swelled and he lost range of motion. He decided it was best to visit the emergency room, where a physician stabilized his injury and referred him to Jeffrey F. Dietz. M.D., of New England Hand Associates, for follow-up.

George saw Dr. Dietz at the practice’s new Milford office, where it was determined that he sustained a fracture. After reviewing the options, George decided to undergo surgery in hopes of healing quickly and returning to work as soon as possible. Even though he lives in Framingham, George said that he didn’t mind traveling to Milford Regional Medical Center for the procedure, which involved putting a plate in his hand.

“From the time I walked in the door for pre-operative testing, everyone was so helpful,” George exclaimed. “There were no long waits for anything, and everyone was so pleasant. When I arrived for my day surgery, the whole staff treated me unbelievably well. The nurses were fantastic. After I woke up in the recovery room, they frequently asked me about my pain level. The friend who came to pick me up was very impressed… she said if she ever has to come to a hospital for anything, she was going to Milford.”

The hand is a unique area of the human body made up of bone, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles, nerves, skin, and blood vessels. When a problem arises, care must be given to all the different types of tissues that make the hand function – and contrary to the name, many hand surgeons also have expertise with problems of the wrist, elbow, arm, and shoulder. Milford area residents don’t need to travel far to find experts in this unique specialty of medicine, now that New England Hand Associates has opened its doors on Asylum Street.

Dr. Dietz joined Louis M. Jurist, M.D. and Michael Brunelli, M.D. at the practice this past September. The doctors share time at the Milford and Framingham locations, providing orthopedic care to treat all aspects of upper extremity injuries or afflictions. Dr. Dietz, the newest member of the team, was trained as an orthopedic surgeon and completed a fellowship for the hand and upper extremity.

“I do hand, wrist, forearm, elbow and shoulder – anything in the upper extremity,” explained Dr. Dietz. “The most common things we see are fractures of the fingers and of the wrist, trigger digits, carpal tunnel syndrome and other nerve entrapment disorders, arthritis of the hand and wrist, shoulder pain and rotator cuff injuries, and fractures or other conditions of the elbow. The youngest patient that I’ve seen is four and the oldest patient is 97. We see a wide range of problems in a wide range of age distributions. There’s no patient population in which there isn’t need for a hand surgeon.”

Dr. Dietz points out that not every patient is a surgical candidate. “We like to do the best thing for the patient, and oftentimes that’s not surgery, and the best treatment is non-operative care,” he said. “This could be injections, medications, splinting, casting, or physical or occupational therapy. We take care of both operative and non-operative problems of the hand and upper extremity.“

Dr. Dietz said that when an operation does become necessary, most procedures are done as day surgery, with the exception of the shoulder or elbow. He praised Milford Regional Medical Center for its surgical facilities and said that both he and his patients have had positive experiences there.

“The hospital is fantastic,” said Dr. Dietz. “The equipment is all new, the operating rooms are nice, new and clean, and the staff is great. Generally, the patient comes to the hospital in the morning or early afternoon, spends a short time in recovery, and goes home the same day. It depends on the extent of the surgery as to whether it’s an overnight stay, but the majority of procedures of the hand and wrist are done as outpatient surgery. The patient always goes home with medications that control pain, and the anesthesiology department will likely do regional anesthetic procedures where they will numb up an area.”

New England Hand Associates opened their Milford office in early September and practice has been a welcomed addition to the Milford medical community. Dr. Dietz notes that “there will always be somebody from our practice in this Milford office, available to see patients every day of the week. Patients are very pleased and surprised when they find they don’t have to go very far to see someone with specialty training.”

George Gustin said he is grateful to Dr. Dietz for fixing his hand so that after he completes his recuperation, he would be physically-able to drive a school bus once again. When his cast came off, George went into a splint for a few weeks and began working closely with a therapist to rebuild the range of motion and strength in his hand.

“Everything about this whole episode went so smoothly, it was beyond belief,” said George. “Dr. Dietz is so down to earth. His bedside manner is unbelievable - unheard of really. When you walk away from this man, you know exactly what’s going on. He’s that in-depth with you, explaining things. My hand is excellent now… you can’t even find the incision, and there’s no pain at all. I can’t say enough about how everyone handled me.”

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