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The industry's top independent medical evaluation service provider offers timely information on a wide range of medical news and claims management topics - all in the name of helping you manage injury claims in the most efficient and cost effective manner.   

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10/23/2018 in Medical Conditions

Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common causes of heel pain.  It occurs when the thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of the foot and connects the heel bone to the toes gets inflamed.  Symptoms include a stabbing pain at the bottom of the foot near the heel.  It generally occurs when you haven’t walked for a while, such as first thing in the morning.  As more movement of the foot occurs through walking the pain normally decreases but could return after long periods of standing or upon rising from a seated position.  

Plantar fasciitis is common in persons between the ages of 40-60 but can be brought about at any age with certain types of exercise, such as running, jumping, ballet dancing, aerobic dance.  Plantar fasciitis can also be the result of anatomic deviations from normal, such as being flat footed, a high arch, or an abnormal walking pattern.  Obesity is also known to put extra stress on the plantar fascia.  Occupations which involve mostly standing can also damage the plantar fascia leading to plantar fasciitis.

Plantar Fasciitis is tough to treat.  Often times treatment takes several months.  Rest, ice, and Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help reduce inflammation and pain.  If pain isn’t responding to NSAIDs, a steroid injection can ease pain for about a month and will keep inflammation down for even longer.  Physical therapy might be recommended if none of the other modes of treatment worked.  From this point forward, treatment gets more aggressive.

Shock-wave therapy, where sound waves literally “shock” the plantar fascia to stimulate blood flow and help tissue to heal; pain is stopped from the stunning affect it has on the nerves.

Tenex procedure, like an “arthroscopy” of the foot there is a small incision and an ultrasound is used to target and remove scar tissue.  Life gets back to normal in as little as 10 days.

The last resort is surgery, where the plantar fascia is removed from the heal bone.  Although this can be done as an outpatient, healing takes longer with the use of a splint or boot and no weight bearing, then limited weight bearing and things will hopefully progress to unrestricted weight bearing.

Plantar fasciitis is a common condition that is difficult to treat and can have a long healing period.  Time away from work can easily cost employers thousands in lost time and treatment bills for just one employee.  Encouraging healthy habits can lessen the incidence of plantar fasciitis in the workplace, which in turn can lower the cost of lost time and treatment.  Examples of healthy practices include: 

  • Exercises to help prevent plantar fasciitis
  • Incentives for the purchase of good quality shoes
  • Incentives for losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight (many group health insurance companies offer incentives to employees for healthy habits)
  • Allowing frequent breaks to sit or provide a chair (when possible) so employees can decide how they are best comfortable
  • If it is not possible for the employee to sit, perhaps a cushioned mat could be a solution

Proactive involvement in prevention can cost little as compared to what it saves.

10/11/2018 in Medical Conditions

The meniscus is often described as the knee’s “shock absorbers.”  That’s because they are a piece of cartilage providing a cushion between the thigh bone (femur) and shin bone (tibia).  Each knee joint has two menisci.  Their purpose is to help equally distribute the body’s weight, protecting and extending the life surrounding cartilage. 

 A meniscus can be torn or damaged during any activity that puts pressure on or rotates the knee joint.  Younger people are likely to experience sports related traumatic tears.  However, as a person ages, the cartilage in the knee becomes weaker and thinner, and is more prone to tears from simple activities of daily living.

Generally, when a meniscus tear occurs, a popping sound is heard around the knee joint.  Afterwards, many people experience pain (especially when the area is touched), swelling, difficulty moving the knee or inability to fully move it, a feeling of the knee locking or catching, and a feeling the knee is giving way or unable to support you.

Meniscus tears are actually quite common.  In fact, about 700,000 Americans undergo a meniscectomy (meniscus surgery) annually.  Many others have the condition and choose not to move forward with surgery.  Decades ago the entire meniscus was removed on the belief that it would grow back, and when it didn’t a total replacement was undertaken. 

Today, the standard approach is to remove only the torn section of the meniscus through a partial meniscectomy and leave the healthy tissue.  The arthroscopic surgery is performed through two small incisions on the knee.

There have been many advances in technology which have progressed to a less invasive surgery resulting in quicker recovery time.  However, even with today’s advances, the symptoms go away and the patient has 5-10 years of relief, but the loss of even part of the meniscus can accelerate the onset of arthritis.

A new development of a tissue-engineered meniscus replacement has been announced. It consists of a biodegradable polymer that has been submerged in collagen and hyaluronic acid and weaved into the shape of a meniscus.  The sponge-like device is inserted into the knee where it fully dissolves and stimulates the body to rebuild new meniscal tissue naturally. 

The dissolvable polymer is strong enough to bear the pressure between the two bones while stimulating the body to grow a new meniscus in its place.  The new meniscus is not comprised of scar tissue – rather it is neo-meniscal tissue.  For many people with meniscal injuries this would eliminate the need for a future knee replacement.

This technology, which will be marketed under the name “MeniscoFix” is not yet available to the general public.  It is scheduled for clinical trials in the next two years and will be commercially available within 5-7 years. This new technology will allow doctors to tailor treatment to the patient’s specific type of tear and employ the least invasive method for the best outcome.

Reference:  http://www.nj.com/inside-jersey/index.ssf/2017/11/advances_in_treatment_offer_hope_for_a_common_knee_injury.html

In order to resolve claims quickly and cost-effectively, it is necessary to recognize red flags, pre-existing conditions such as health concerns and degenerative issues at the onset.  This allows you to determine what tools are necessary to move the claim to closure.

  • Maintaining Communication – As soon as possible, establish contact with both the insured and the claimant.  Thoroughly listen to what is being said, do not think about your next question or what you’re going to say next.  Clear your head and simply listen to what is being said.  You may pick up on new information that would otherwise not be communicated.
  • Monitor Treatment – Make sure the claimant is compliant and that treatment hasn’t exceeded guidelines for the injury.  Get an IME if necessary.
  • Stay on Top of Litigated Claims – Make sure your defense attorney is keeping things moving forward.   

The single most important key factor in keeping claims moving forward is communication, with the claimant, insured, treating doctor(s), and if appropriate your defense attorney.  

9/27/2018 in Medical Conditions

The condition is characterized by persistent burning or aching pain with increased or decreased sweating, swelling, changes to skin color, damage to the skin, hair loss, cracked or thickened nails, muscle wasting and weakness, and/or bone loss.  As a result of pain, use of the affected area is limited which can produce stiff and shortened muscles, limiting range of motion.  CRPS is believed to be caused by damage or malfunction of the peripheral and central nervous systems.

The condition is often diagnosed following a forceful trauma to an arm, for example a crushing injury, fracture or amputation.  However, surgical procedures of the shoulder, carpal tunnel, and Dupuytren’s contracture have been known to manifest Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.   

There are two types of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome:

Type 1 – (used to be called reflex sympathetic dystrophy) refers to injury to tissues other than nerve tissue, for example when a bone is crushed in an accident.  It is thought that 90% of persons with complex regional pain syndrome have Type 1.

Type 2 – (used to be called Causalgia) refers to injury of nerve tissue.

There are several different types of treatment available and every person’s response to treatment is different.  Most treatment is geared toward keeping blood flowing to the painful limb and controlling the pain.  The prognosis of CRPS is highly variable.  Younger persons, children and teenagers have better outcomes, older people can have a good outcome as well.  However, there are some individuals who experience severe pain and disability despite treatment. 

Research has shown that CRPS-related inflammation is caused by the body’s own immune response.  Researchers are working to better understand how CRPS develops, what causes it, how it progresses, and the role of early treatment. 

9/20/2018 in Medical Conditions

Tendons take a long time to heal, so treatment is generally directed at speeding up the body’s natural healing process.  The following at-home treatments are often recommended:

  • Resting the tendon and avoiding repetitive movements. This may include taking a break every 15 minutes when doing repetitive activities, such as typing.
  • Stretching the tendon to increase its range of movement and flexibility and to promote circulation.
  • Massaging the affected area to promote circulation.
  • Strengthening the muscles around the tendon with exercises to reduce daily strain on the injured tendon.
  • Using braces or tape to protect the tendon from further injury.

Research has shown that vitamin C and curcumin supplements may help promote collagen production and speed up healing.

The following treatments may also be recommended:

  • Extracorporeal shockwave therapy (EWST), which involves applying pressure waves to the surface of the skin. This may promote the regeneration of tissue and speed up the healing process. EWST has been shown to be effective for some lower limb conditions.
  • Surgery can remove damaged tissue to relieve pain and allow the tendon to heal.
  • Corticosteroid injections around the tendon can reduce short-term pain and swelling. However, they may also make relapse more likely and can sometimes impair collagen production.
  • Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections, involve injecting plasma from the person's blood into areas around the tendon. The platelets promote cell repair and healing.

Anti-inflammatories and ice can help relieve the pain which is caused by inflammation.

The long-term outlook is good.  80% of tendinosis sufferers make a full recovery in 3-6 months.  If left untreated, tendinosis can lead to ruptured tendons so early treatment is important. 

Source:  https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320558.php

9/13/2018 in Medical Conditions

A tendon is tissue that attaches muscle to bone.  It is flexible, tough, fibrous, and can withstand tension.  Tendons and muscles work together and exert a pulling force.  Tendons and ligaments are tough and fibrous, but they are known as soft tissue because they are soft compared with bone.

When a tendon is inflamed or irritated, it is referred to as Tendinitis.   Symptoms include pain (often described as a dull ache), which is increased when moving the affected joint, tenderness and mild swelling.  Different types of tendinitis affect different parts of the body, but for purposes of this blog we will focus on the upper extremities:

Supraspinatus tendinitis refers to inflammation of the tendon at the top of the shoulder joint causing pain when the arm is moved, especially upwards.  It may be painful to lie on the affected shoulder.  If other tendons in the same area are also affected, the diagnosis may be rotator cuff syndrome.

Tennis elbow otherwise known as lateral epicondylitis refers to pain on the outer side of the elbow which may radiate down towards the wrist. 

Golfer’s elbow, referred to as medial epicondylitis is pain on the inner side of the elbow which is more acute when trying to lift against a force and the pain may radiate down to the wrist.

De Quervain’s stenosing tenosynovitis is an inflammation of the sheath that surrounds the thumb tendons between the thumb and wrist.  The sheath thickens and swells, making it painful to move the thumb.

Trigger finger or thumb results in a clicking when straightening out the finger or thumb and becomes fixed in a bent position because the tendon sheath in the palm of the hand is thickened and inflamed.

Tendinitis of the wrist (or tendinopathy) mostly affects badminton players and production line workers who repeatedly use the same motion of the wrist.  This is a degenerative condition rather than an inflammation.

Tendinitis mostly arises from the repetition of a particular movement over time as opposed to a sudden injury.  For example, an occupation, hobby or sport that involve repetitive motions which puts stress on the tendons.  Age also increases the risk because as people age, their tendons become less flexible and easier to injure.

Most of the time tendinitis can be successfully treated with rest, physical therapy and medications (for pain reduction).  A full recovery can generally be expected within about six weeks.  However, if treatment is not successful and tendon irritation persists for several weeks or months, chronic tendinitis or tendinosis may develop. 

Often tendinosis is mistaken for tendinitis.  Tendinosis is a chronic injury which involves degenerative changes of tendon tissue and may also involve some inflammation.  Tendinosis is a long term chronic condition which can take 3-6 months to heal. 

So, in summary, there are many types of tendonitis which with proper rest and care can heal within about six weeks.  If not taken care of, tendonitis can turn into tendinosis which is chronic in nature and takes anywhere from 3-6 months to heal.

Numerous studies show that the workplace is the major source of stress for American adults.  77% of people regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress.  73% regularly experience psychological symptoms caused by stress.  33% feel they are living with extreme stress and 48% feel their stress has increased over the past five years.

We may not be able to control much of what happens in the workplace, but we can control how we respond to it.  Here are a couple of tips for controlling stress at work:

  1. Act Rather than React – Take a step back and realize what you can control about the situation and what you cannot.  You can control your actions and responses. 

  2. Take a Deep Breath – A few minutes of deep breathing clears your head and restores balance. 

  3. Control Interruptions – Train co-workers by answering email during certain windows, setting up office hours to talk in person, or close your door to complete tasks you need to focus on. 

  4. Schedule Breaks – Scheduling breaks throughout the day to walk, stretch at your desk or do breathing exercises lessens stress and rejuvenates.

  5. Eat Right, Sleep Well – Lack of sleep and unhealthy eating habits stresses your system.  Lack of sleep doesn’t allow you to recover from the day’s stresses.
8/23/2018 in Medical Conditions

A physical examination by a physician consists of observation to look for deformities, muscle wasting, and changes in appearance of the damaged shoulder compared to the normal one. 

Palpation, or feeling the bones that make up the shoulder joint as well as the shoulder joint itself.  Further evaluation might include assessment of range of motion of both shoulders, strength testing, pressing on different parts of the shoulder while moving the arm into different positions.  Sensation and blood flow in the arm and hand may be assessed, feeling for pulses and determining if there is normal light touch, pain, and vibration sensation in the extremity.

A variety of tests may be performed to discover which of the four muscles of the rotator cuff is injured or damaged.  Each uses muscle contractions to try to find the weak or painful muscle. The Jobe test for the supraspinatus tendon or the Patte test for the infraspinatus and teres minor muscles, or the Gerber test for subscapularis muscle.

One or more of the following diagnostic tests may be ordered as well: 

X-Rays – A rotator cuff tear won’t show up on an x-ray, but the doctor will be able to see bone spurs or other potential causes for pain.

Ultrasound – Assesses the structures of the shoulder as it moves and allows for a quick comparison of the affected shoulder with the healthy one.

MRI – This provides all structures in the shoulder in great detail.

8/17/2018 in Medical Conditions

De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis is an inflammation of tendons and their sheaths on the side of the wrist at the base of the thumb.  It can be brought on by a simple strain injury, but is often the result of repetitive motion injury.  Some causes can be occupational in nature, but also the result of video gaming, lifting young children into car seats, lifting heavy grocery bags by the loops or lifting gardening pots up into place.  De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis can also be caused by a direct blow to the wrist or tendon. 

Risk factors include the following:

  • Age – those between the ages of 30-50 have a higher risk
  • Sex – the condition is more common in women
  • Pregnancy (typically appears 4-6 weeks after delivery)
  • Jobs or hobbies that involve repetitive hand and wrist motions

De Quervain’s tenosynovitis symptoms include a feeling of sharp or dull pain, swelling, and tenderness at the side of the wrist beneath the base of the thumb.  It is typically diagnosed based on typical appearance, location of pain and tenderness.  It can also be diagnosed if pain is experienced when the Finkelstein maneuver is performed.  To do this, bend the thumb down across the palm of the hand and then cover the thumb with the fingers.  Next, bend the wrist toward the little finger.   Lab tests or diagnostic imaging is not required.

Treatment is geared at relieving symptoms such as a splint to stop moving the thumb and wrist, Tylenol or other anti-inflammatory medications, cortisone-type of steroid injection into the tendon compartment.  If these options are not provided relief, surgery to open the tunnel and make more room for the tendons may be considered. 

The results of a recent study suggest in a proportion of participants De Quervain’s tenosynovitis could be secondary to underlying wrist pathology due to previous trauma.  So, if the claimant isn’t reporting a  history of repetitive strain, then the treating physician could be asked to conduct a more thorough assessment to establish if there is any underlying pathology. 

In conclusion, De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis is a temporary condition that generally responds well to treatment.  However, if the condition isn’t treated, it can permanently limit range of motion or cause the tendon sheath to burst.

8/9/2018 in Medical Conditions

Shoulder pain is the second most common type of pain reported by patients in the United States.  The rotator cuff is a complicated structure consisting of four muscle groups that attach to the long bone that connects the shoulder to the elbow. 

The muscles and their functions are as follows: 

Supraspinatus – Holds the humerous in place and keeps upper arm stable.  Also helps with lifting. 

Infraspinatus – Main muscle that controls rotation and extension.

Teres Minor – The slim, narrow muscle in the rotator cuff; it assists with rotating the arm away from the body.

Subscapularis – Holds the upper arm bone to the shoulder blade and helps with rotation, holding the arm straight and out and lowering it

Injuries causing pain are common and these injuries usually fall into the following three categories:     

Rotator cuff tear – often the result of the wear and tear of daily use. 

Tendinitis – an inflammation or irritation of the tendon that attaches to the bone.

Bursitis – irritation of bursa (a small sac filled with fluid that protects the rotator cuff).

Tendinitis and bursitis can get better with nonsurgical treatment. 

However, rotator cuff tears often require surgery if physical therapy and medications do not help.

Unfortunately, traditional rotator cuff repair procedures involve suturing tendon to bone and result in long rehabilitation, significant lifestyle changes, and variable outcomes.  Which is why many people choose to forego surgery until pain is severe and mobility is significantly impaired.  The catch 22 is that as rotator cuff disease progresses, it becomes increasingly difficult to repair.

However, there is a new approach called The Rotation Medical Rotator Cuff System that includes a collagen based bio-inductive implant about the size of a postage stamp.  The implant is placed arthroscopically through a small incision over the location of the rotator cuff tendon that is injured.  It is secured with small staples.  The bio-inductive implant dissolves slowly during the healing process.  As it dissolves, it induces growth of new tendon-like tissue, resulting in thicker tendons and replacement of tissue defects. 

This technology can be used in earlier stages of rotator cuff disease to slow progression.  It can also be used in conjunction with traditional repair procedures to improve tendon biology and decrease the chances of re-tearing the rotator cuff tendon.

The advantages are shorter rehabilitation, faster recovery, potential to prevent or slow down disease progression, and decreased risk of developing a second degenerative tear.

 

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