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Back On the Beat

NorthShore Orthopaedic Surgeon Comes to the Aid of Police Officer

North suburban police officer Mike Geyer, 27, injured more than his ego when he fell off a bicycle during police training in May 2010. Geyer also sustained a fracture to the scaphoid bone in his left wrist.

For an active-duty police officer, this small bone located below the thumb is integral to a variety of work-related maneuvers. Through the expertise of NorthShore orthopaedic surgeon Seth Levitz, MD, Geyer was given an option for surgery with a reduced recovery time that soon had him back on the job.

The scaphoid bone is one of eight bones linking the two rows of carpal bones of the wrist. “It’s the cornerstone of the wrist,” said Dr. Levitz. The bone is commonly fractured when people try to break a fall, which happened to Geyer when he fell off his bike, as he described, in “full Superman mode” with arms outstretched.

“Aside from the embarrassment of falling in front of my colleagues, I knew there was something wrong,” said Geyer. “In my line of work, hands are important.” Geyer could handle the pain he felt, but it was the severe swelling that sent him to the Emergency Department at NorthShore Evanston Hospital. He was eventually referred to Dr. Levitz.

Scaphoid fractures are the most common injuries of the carpal bones but they pose the most challenges for healing and treatment. The fracture may not show up initially on X-rays and often is misdiagnosed as a sprained wrist. Also, the blood supply to the scaphoid is very tenuous, said Dr. Levitz. A fracture can restrict or stop the flow of blood bringing nutrients and oxygen to the bone. If this happens, healing is slow or might not occur at all. “If the bone doesn’t heal properly, a patient can develop arthritis in the future,” he added.

Until recently, the only option for treatment of a scaphoid fracture was to put the wrist in a cast for up to three months, with additional time for physical therapy. For people like officer Geyer, losing so much time off work is not an option. Advances in orthopaedic surgery now allow for such fractures to be repaired with a small, specialized flathead screw less than two-and-a-half millimeters wide. This surgical approach greatly minimizes chances for improper healing.

“When placing the screw into the bone, there is not a lot of wiggle room, but the end result is good stability with a total recovery time of eight to nine weeks,” said Dr. Levitz. “If Officer Geyer isn’t at 100 percent, it’s not just his life, but also his partner’s life on the line if you think in terms of apprehending assailants and putting on handcuffs.”

“Dr. Levitz was phenomenal,” said Geyer. “He understood that my primary goal was to get back to full duty. I wanted to push it, and he tempered me to take it slow. I recovered 100 percent, and now I can do everything I did before the injury.”

To learn more about NorthShore’s advanced orthopaedic and sports medicine, please call 855.929.0100 or request a consultation online.