Orthopaedic Surgeons Need to Watch for Undetected Brain Injuries
ALBANY, N.Y., Oct. 18, 2013 — Calling minor traumatic brain injuries a major health problem, an article written by Albany Medical Center physicians notes that orthopaedists can play a significant role in diagnosing and monitoring patients for potentially serious brain trauma that often accompanies other injuries.
In the October issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (JAAOS), lead author Richard Uhl, M.D., chief of the Division of Orthopaedic Surgery at Albany Med, said minor traumatic brain injuries (mTBI) occur in as many as 50 percent of significant bodily accidents, but may not be apparent until after patients return to their routines.
He said orthopaedists are in a unique position to detect mTBI because they are often monitoring patients’ recovery over a significant period of rehabilitation, and are sometimes the only caregiver following a patient after what may appear to be an isolated orthopaedic injury.
“Undetected minor traumatic brain injuries can have very serious long-term implications for patients,” Dr. Uhl said. “With greater knowledge and awareness, orthopaedic surgeons can provide crucial care for and management of patients’ conditions beyond their muscle or bone injuries.”
The paper notes that while patients who come in to Albany Med for treatment of blunt trauma are evaluated by emergency and trauma physicians to determine potential brain injuries, Albany Med’s orthopaedic surgery team also is trained to assess each patient for the presence of mTBI. The paper includes a tool the authors developed to help orthopaedic residents and physicians determine appropriate referrals and levels of concern for mTBI in patients following injuries.
Joining Dr. Uhl in the article were Christopher King, M.D., chair of Albany Med’s Department of Emergency Medicine, resident Andrew Rosenbaum, M.D., orthopaedic surgeon Michael Mulligan, M.D., and resident Cory Czajka, M.D.
Dr. Uhl said in a number of cases a patient may still not feel “right” even after the bone is healed. Subtle signs and symptoms of mTBI include headache, fatigue, memory loss, altered mood and inability to concentrate, among others.
The Centers for Disease Control and the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control have called mTBI a “silent epidemic.” Falls and motor vehicle accidents are responsible for most cases of mTBI and are a common cause of orthopaedic injuries as well. In the United States, approximately 1.4 million people suffer a traumatic brain injury (TBI) annually; of those, three out of four sustain an mTBI.
In addition to trauma cases, Albany Medical Center provides comprehensive treatment for anyone in need of orthopaedic care. Orthopaedists practice at Albany Med in association with Capital Region Orthopaedics.
Albany Medical Center, northeastern New York’s only academic health sciences center, is one of the largest private employers in the Capital Region. It incorporates the 734-bed Albany Medical Center Hospital, which offers the widest range of medical and surgical services in the region, and the Albany Medical College, which trains the next generation of doctors, scientists and other healthcare professionals, and also includes a biomedical research enterprise and the region’s largest physicians practice with nearly 400 doctors. Albany Medical Center works with dozens of community partners to improve the region’s health and quality of life. For more information: www.amc.edu or www.facebook.com/albanymedicalcenter.
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