Veteran Columbus orthopedic surgeon Dr. Champ Baker Jr. calls a relatively new procedure to repair tendon-related injuries "pretty sweet."
Based on technology developed in cooperation with the Mayo Clinic, the Tenex Health TX is a minimally invasive treatment option for tendon and soft tissue injuries such as tennis elbow, golfer's elbow, jumper's knee, Achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitis.
"Chronic tendon pain is a problem affecting millions of people," said Baker, a member of the Tenex Health medical advisory board.
Located at the Hughston Clinic, Baker has been using the Tenex Health TX procedure for about 18 months. Some other Hughston physicians perform it as well.
"I am extremely pleased with the results I am seeing in patients," Baker said. "They have reported experiencing a near painless treatment, a quick recovery and lasting pain relief."
The tendon is a strong, flexible band of tissue connecting muscle to bone. The tendons and muscles work together to create the pulling force allowing a person to twist, grip, grab, move and lift.
Tendonitis is an inflammation, irritation and swelling of the tendon. Repetitive motions, no matter how ordinary, can cause micro tears.
Baker said the tendon troubles do not have to be connected to athletics. It can be a result from working at a computer or texting.
Tendon pain limits range of motion and may keep someone from living an active life.
Tenex Health literature says when a person has chronic tendonitis they can pinpoint the exact location of the pain. It might occur every time a person brushes his or her hair or hammers a nail. If a sharp sting in one precise area is always felt, then there is a problem. The pain should not be ignored because tendons are important body parts that need attention when injured.
Some people with tendonitis or plantar fascitis may experience improvement with options such as rest, physical therapy or injections of an anti-inflammatory pain medication such as cortisone. But if the pain and lifestyle restrictions persist beyond three months, then a person is likely suffering from chronic tendon disease.
Baker said other options address the pain but not the source.
"I am not in favor of cortisone. It is not a cure. You do not want to just hide symptoms but correct the problem," Baker said.
An open surgical procedure may be done to remove the damaged tissue, but it carries the risk of invasive procedures including damage to surrounding healthy tissue and a lengthy recovery time with restricted activity.
The new procedure is a simple one.
The area is prepared by the doctor who numbs the area with a local anesthetic.
Sophisticated ultrasound imaging is used to identify the specific location of the damaged soft tissue.
"The damaged tissue shows up on ultrasound as a darker area. The area is less dense," Baker explained.
An incision, no longer than a quarter of an inch in length, is made.
The doctor places in a MicroTip probe with a one-inch needle into the damaged tendon. The patient feels some pressure but no pain.
Using ultrasonic energy, the probe targets the damaged tissue, breaks it down and removes it, sucking it out. Healthy tissue is not affected as might be the case in a more invasive procedure.
Baker controls the device with a foot pedal.
Following the approximately 20-minute procedure, a small bandage is applied.
Over-the-counter pain medication may be taken for discomfort.
The normal length of time for complete recovery is two to six weeks.
There is no need for physical therapy or additional treatments afterward.
Baker said the procedure is simple enough to do in a doctor's office, but the Food and Drug Administration demands the procedure be done in a hospital.
Baker said it can be done in a hospital room. Sometimes, family members are there watching.
There is no hospital stay, which is another advantage to the procedure.
"This is the best way to get rid of chronic tendon pain," Baker said.