Tommy John Procedure
Tommy John procedure, also called Ulnar Collateral Ligament Reconstruction (UCLR), is a common procedure to treat damaged or injured ulnar collateral ligament in the elbow. The ulnar collateral ligament problems are highly prevalent in ‘throwing’ athletes, like baseball pitchers. Throwing activities results in placing unusual stress on your elbow which increases the chances of elbow injury than with other types of sports.
An injury like this can make the elbow unstable and require physical therapy exercises. If the physical therapy doesn’t work then a surgery is needed to treat the damage. For many sports players, the Tommy John surgery has successfully restored the full functioning of their elbow.
In some cases, however, the patient experiences problems after a Tommy John surgery that requires additional treatments or might lead to impairments due to negligence. In medical malpractice cases, there is a need for an expert witness to accurate examine and review the case.
Dr. Scott Powell is an expert orthopedic surgeon with 30+ years of practical surgery experience. He has more than 15,000 orthopedic surgeries under his belt, and as an orthopedic expert witness, has reviewed 100+ orthopedic malpractice cases, taken part in 50+ depositions, and testified in 20 trials. With his combined surgical and orthopedic expert witness experience, Dr. Powell is equipped with the right knowledge and tools to determine whether or not medical negligence played a role in any orthopedic surgery procedure.
What is “Tommy John” Procedure?
In a Tommy John surgery, a small incision or cut is made on the inside of your elbow. The damaged or injured ligament is removed through the incision. The surgery is minimally invasive and is effective in treating the damage.
In case of a repair, the surgeon uses the same incision to insert the tools required to repair the torn ligament. If there is a need for reconstruction then the surgeon makes another incision on the forearm of the other arm to retrieve a small healthy tendon. The tendon might also be taken from the lower or upper leg. When the graft is taken out, the surgeon replaces it with the damaged ulnar collateral ligament.
Common Causes for Tommy John Procedure
The repeated stress associated with the throwing movement leads to tear and stretch of the ulnar ligament. Gradually, this causes tiny muscle tears in the ligament, and ultimately these tears take a toll on the ligament resulting in damage or ruptures.
This condition is common in young athletes competing in longer seasons. Children are also more vulnerable as there is an open growth plant in their elbows.
It can also happen to non-athletes, mostly when someone falls with their hands outstretched.
Tommy John Surgery Success Rate
The ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction surgery has been found to have a high success rate, particularly in treating the instability of the valgus elbow in athletes. Study shows 83% of athletes returned to their previous level of competition or even higher with the year after the surgery.
“Tommy John” Procedure Malpractice Cases
This procedure has become highly common in treating injuries and symptoms of the elbow conditions. A study found a major increase in the rate of adolescents getting the Tommy John surgery to treat a pitching elbow condition in the past few years.
However, reinjuries are rather common after this surgery. A study followed pitchers who had undergone surgical repairs and the results highlighted that 57% returned in the disabled list due to the reinjuries.
Aside from that, there have been multiple complications reported after the surgery in some patients, that have led to malpractice cases. A study highlighted that ulnar nerve neurapraxia is a common complication after or during the surgery.
Why Do You Need Orthopedic Surgery Expert Witness?
In case of a botched Tommy John surgery, patients can file a medical malpractice case in court. An expert witness is needed in medical litigation cases to review the injury and the complications, if any. Orthopedic surgeons have the right knowledge to identify the cause and create accurate evaluations.
Dr. Powell is a board certified and experienced surgeon who can offer the right guidance, in-depth evaluation of the medical reports, identify problems, estimate cost of potential surgeries and future care. This can make a major difference in reaching the right verdict for a medical malpractice case.
If you want accurate and timely evaluation and testimony on sports related injuries and medical malpractice, then give us a call today to get in touch with our expert.
“Tommy John” Procedure FAQs
When the ligament is torn, you might hear the popping sound and wouldn’t be able to throw or perform normal activities with the affected arm. The inner elbow might feel sore even before the tear occurs. This soreness is caused because of the added pressure on the ligament.
Other symptoms include:
- Weakened hand grip
- Tingling sensation in the ring finger, little finger, and the hand
- Stiffness of the elbow
- Difficulty in straightening the arm
- Formation of a bruise
The recovery time might be long, but varies from person to person. For pitchers, it takes around 12 to 15 months to get back to the game. The surgeon will suggest the Tommy John Surgery therapy exercises you should perform after the surgery.
The rehabilitating period after the surgery is mainly divided into three different phases and each phase depends on the nature of the injury and the individual. The three phases are as follows:
- Phase 1: During this phase, you have to wear a brace to stabilize your arm at 60 to 90-degree angle. You can still perform exercises for your hand, shoulder, and biceps.
- Phase 2: After two weeks, you will be able to move the elbow and perform physical therapy exercises to enhance the range of motion of your elbow. You will still wear a brace to provide stability to your elbow.
- Phase 3: A month after the surgery, the brace will come off and you will be able to fully straighten your arm. The next several months of physical therapy will help you to regain the strength and flexibility of your elbow.
It is essential to understand the complications and risks involved before the surgery. The common complications of this surgery include elbow stiffness, lower arm bone fracture, nerve injury, or inability of regaining the full throwing ability.