NEWS BLOG from UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

Cricket Superstar Makes Comeback From Injuries After ACL Surgeries at UPMC


West Indian cricket superstar and all-rounder Kieron Pollard returned to the field in under four months not just once, but twice, post-op following reconstructive ACL surgery performed by
UPMC’s orthopedic surgery chair Dr. Freddie Fu, M.D in 2013 and 2015.

Mr. Pollard, 29, also plays cricket for the Mumbai Indians of the Indian Premier League (IPL). Drafted in 2010, he quickly rose to international acclaim. Unfortunately, Pollard’s career took a hit after an ACL injury to his left knee in 2013.  He sought care in Pittsburgh from Dr. Fu, and was able to make a remarkably quick comeback after surgery.

The 2015 IPL season was arguably Mr. Pollard’s best ever, with the Mumbai Indians winning the IPL final championship. However, Mr. Pollard suffered yet another ACL injury, this time to his right knee, in late November 2015 at the Cape Cobras’ Ram Slam T20 Challenge, this one potentially career-ending.

“I spun to my left and heard a big, long, loud crack,” Mr. Pollard said. “I immediately knew it was my ACL.”

This injury was more severe than the first, as it included a tear in his meniscus.

Mr. Pollard wanted to get back to the field as soon as possible and wanted to receive the best care available. Following the success of his first ACL injury, Mr. Pollard again traveled to Pittsburgh to receive care from Dr. Fu, who is known worldwide for treating knee-related sports injuries.

Although typical ACL surgery recovery time is several months to a year, Mr. Pollard worked hard to recover sooner.

“I just wanted to do what was necessary to get back playing at a high level,” he said. “I challenged myself to physical therapy six to seven hours a day.”

Mr. Pollard’s hard work paid off as he returned to the field for a professional match this past April.

“I bring it down to willpower,” he said. “I put in the hard work and got rewards.”

The precision and care of Dr. Fu and his team also helped Mr. Pollard’s recovery. In addition to being chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University Of Pittsburgh School Of Medicine, Dr. Fu is a past American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM) president. Recently, he was inducted into the AOSSM Hall of Fame.

“Unlike where I’m from, everything was in place the day of surgery,” Mr. Pollard said of Dr. Fu’s professionalism. “Everything was structured. That impressed me the most. Every time I step on the cricket field now, it’s thanks to Dr. Fu, his staff and all they have done for me.”

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Michael Walsh Dickey Selected to Serve on Language and Communication Study Section

Dickey_headshotMichael Walsh Dickey, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Communication Science and Disorders at the University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, has been selected to serve as a member of the Language and Communication Study Section, Center for Scientific Review.

Members are selected on the basis of their quality of research accomplishments and publications in scientific journals, as well as other significant activities, achievements and honors. Study sections review grant applications submitted to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), make recommendations on these applications to the appropriate NIH national advisory council, and survey the status of research in their fields of science.

Dr. Dickey earned his Ph.D. at the University of Massachusetts and completed a post-doctoral fellowship at Northwestern University. His research focuses on language comprehension and production in adults, the neural bases of these abilities, and their impairments in aphasia. As a research health scientist in the Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, he also conducts clinical trials focused on the treatment of adult neurogenic language disorders.

Dr. Dickey started serving as a member of the study section in July and will serve through June of 2020.

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UPMC Investigates Innovative Treatment Methods for Aortic Aneurysms

Daniel Gardone was the first patient worldwide to receive an innovative implant that uses a stent with tree-like branches to treat aortic aneurysms, bulges in the body’s main artery that can rupture, causing serious bleeding and possibly death.

Following Mr. Gardone’s back surgery in December 2014, an X-ray found an aneurysm in his arch, or the apex of the aorta, located at the top of his chest behind the sternum. The Penn Hills resident was quickly referred to Michel Makaroun, M.D., chief of the Division of Vascular Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and UPMC.

Instead of undergoing major open heart surgery, Mr. Gardone opted in April 2015 to receive a new generation of implant — a thoracic branch endoprosthesis device — placed in the largest and first branch of the arch considered the most difficult and problematic location for such a procedure.

In June, during his one-year checkup, he received the good news: He was cleared for another year after his endovascular aneurysm repair.

“I chose what I had done because it was the least invasive option,” said Mr. Gardone, 64. “I have no major issues now other than a few minor aches and pains, but that is what happens when you get into your 60s.”

Between 12,000 and 15,000 people die from aneurysms of the aorta every year. Commonly found in the belly and upper body, aortic aneurysms mostly affect people 60 years old and older. Those at risk of developing one include people with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and atherosclerosis, as well as smokers. Symptoms can include throbbing or deep pain in the back or side, as well as pain in the buttocks, groin or legs, but oftentimes no symptoms are present.

The Division of Vascular Surgery at UPMC continues to investigate innovative treatment methods for these potentially deadly aneurysms, participating in three clinical trials using new state-of-the-art devices made of nickel titanium stents and covering materials of either Dacron or Teflon.

By providing blood supply through integrated branches similar to tree branches, the implant allows the complex aneurysms to be treated with a less invasive approach than previously used. For over 20 years, repair through small groin incisions has become the standard of care. However, the success of that minimally invasive approach is still limited when the aneurysm involves critical branches providing blood supply to the brain or abdominal organs.

MAKAROUN_MICHEL_MD_VS_20141204Companies now developing these complex products must test areas of fatigue and design connecting segments in lengths and diameters that can fit most patients, noted Dr. Makaroun.

Physicians from the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute have successfully implanted such branch devices into six patients thus far.

“This is the next phase in conquering areas that remain inaccessible today with standard devices,” Dr. Makaroun said. “These new advanced stent-grafts hold the promise of extending minimally invasive surgery to almost all aortic aneurysms, no matter the location.”

For more information about the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute, click here.

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Pitt Pharmacy Partnership Addresses Opioid Epidemic

Pitt PharmacyThe University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy announced a new partnership with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to address the opioid crisis in communities across the state. Opioid abuse is now the leading cause of death in Pennslyvania with about 300 lives lost each year.

“No group can solve this problem on their own, and no community is immune to this,” said Josh Shapiro, chairman of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. “This is not a problem we can arrest our way out of. We have to work our way out of this through collaboration.”

The Pennsylvania Heroin Overdose Technical Assistance Center will conduct training sessions to teach county representatives how to identify sources of county-specific overdose data and teach them how to build a plan to address overdoses using evidence-based practices.

Eighteen counties are signed up for training so far this year. The goal of training is to help each community implement programs that will reduce overdoses. Many counties are also focusing on engaging and educating parents, children and schools about opioid addiction.

“Community based efforts in conjunction with law enforcement is the best way to make a positive impact,” said David Batiste of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

In addition to training, counties are taking action to prevent overdoses by offering prescription drug take-back boxes, distributing Narcan kits, offering recovery support services, and placing certified recovery specialists in jails.

Medication assistant treatment is an excellent resource, according to Latika Davis-Jones, administrator for the Bureau of Drug and Alcohol Services at the Allegheny County Department of Human Services. She is working toward ending the stigma associated with medication as a form of treatment.

“We hope that one day every parent will have the opportunity to see their child live to their fullest potential, free from addiction,” said Dr. Jan Pringle, Ph.D., director at the Program Evaluation and Research Unit of Pitt pharmacy.

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Panel at UPMC Mercy focuses on burn education and prevention

press conf 2

Summer is popular for its fireworks and bonfires, but many summer activities pose an increased risk for burn injuries.

The UPMC Mercy Trauma and Burn Centers and UPMC Office of Prehospital Services recently offered tips for summertime fire safety and injury prevention during a panel-style press conference.

The main focus of the panel was burn education and prevention. The panel included Jenny Ziembicki, M.D., medical director of center; Lisa Epps, fire inspector and fire prevention officer from the City of Pittsburgh; Mark Pinchalk, paramedic coordinator from the City of Pittsburgh Bureau of Emergency Medical Services; Matthew Brown, chief of emergency services at Allegheny County; and three previous burn patients.

Burns from fireworks, kitchen fires and outdoor fires can all cause harm, and around the Fourth of July, fireworks are in the spotlight.

“Burn injuries can be life-changing and devastating,” said Dr. Ziembicki. “It’s our job to show people what’s safe, and that’s not fireworks. We recommend alternatives such as glow sticks.”

Camp fires also pose significant risk.

Mary Arnold, a patient on the panel, spoke about her injuries after an accelerant was thrown on a campfire. She spent 44 days in the hospital and required multiple surgeries.

“The accelerant was in an unmarked bottle and three of us got burned,” she said. “The fire would have been fine without the accelerant.”

Gretchen McDaniel sustained injuries after a kitchen fire started by grease. In 2015, McDaniel underwent training to become a burn peer supporter for the Phoenix Society’s SOAR program at UPMC Mercy, and she continues to share her story to inspire other patients who have sustained burn injuries.

“You need to have a safety plan,” she said. “Fire extinguishers and smoke detectors are extremely important.”

A third patient, Diane Koerbel, also spoke about her experiences. In addition to burn injuries, she fractured her spine after jumping from her burning home, requiring comprehensive rehabilitation. (more…)

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