Meet TRU-D, the germ-killing robot

When she joined our infection control team, we knew immediately that bringing her in was the right call. Staff and patients loved her. It seemed like she never left the hospital and could work 24/7. We knew she was great, but we didn’t realize what a valuable employee she was until the United States had its first confirmed Ebola case.

This employee’s name is TRU-D, or Total Room Ultraviolet Disinfection. TRU-D is a robot that produces natural ultraviolet (UV) light to target common germs found in hospitals. The UV light modifies the DNA structure of a cell so that it cannot reproduce, and a germ that cannot reproduce cannot harm patients or employees.

“There is increased evidence in scientific literature that UV light disinfection technology can sterilize entire rooms and render common hospital pathogens harmless,” explained Mario Soares, director of infection prevention and control at Houston Methodist Hospital.

 

Currently, TRU-D, often mistaken for R2D2 of Star Wars, sanitizes patient and operating rooms at Houston Methodist after they have been cleaned with the traditional cleaning processes. She rolls in to the room, and we close the doors behind her.

While the light TRU-D produces is natural, you don’t want to be in the room while she’s working; she likes to work independently. Using a handheld remote, TRU-D’s boss activates her from outside the room, and her sensors analyze the shape, size and contents of the room. She calculates the amount of time needed to sanitize the room (usually 20-25 minutes) and bathes the room in UV light before shutting off automatically when the germs are dead.

TRU-D is working around the world to fight hospital pathogens. In addition to Ebola, TRU-D’s light can also kill influenza, norovirus, and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

TRU-D can sanitize an entire hospital room in less than 25 minutes Click To Tweet

“While TRU-D is already a core member of our cleaning and disinfecting team at Houston Methodist, we are adding more TRU-D robots to our arsenal,” Mario said. “We want to use TRU-D to disinfect more rooms to increase the level of protection for our patients.”

The next time you’re at Houston Methodist, keep an eye out for TRU-D. She might be rolling to a room near you.

An interview with MITIE’s Dr. Brian Dunkin

This is the third, and final, part of our three-part series on MITIE, the Houston Methodist Institute for Technology, Innovation and Education. To recap, MITIE is one of the largest and most comprehensive surgical education and research facilities in the world. Our first blog was a photo tour of MITIE. In our last blog, we talked about how MITIE provides physicians with a comprehensive training facility to learn new surgical techniques.

To finish our time together, I sat down with Dr. Brian Dunkin, the medical director of MITIE, to ask him why MITIE and the work done there is so important. When Dr. Dunkin isn’t at MITIE, he is an endoscopic surgeon, which means he performs surgery through small incisions or natural body openings to make surgery safer and recovery faster.

Me: Why is MITIE so important and why are you so passionate about MITIE that you’d move your family and practice to Texas to build it?

Dr. Dunkin: Passion is the right word to describe MITIE for me. In medicine, we have a pressing need to support the ongoing training of practicing health care professionals. With how quickly things are changing and constant advancements in technology, it’s become a real crisis. You could be in practice after your training for a relatively short period of time and you’re not up to date anymore and you have nowhere to go.

Dr. Brian Dunkin headshot
Dr. Brian Dunkin is MITIE’s medical director and an endoscopic surgeon.

I’ve developed training programs at several institutions, but nowhere did I see the opportunity to develop an educational facility of the scope and scale available at Houston Methodist. That’s what convinced me to move to Texas and become a part of this. I don’t think anyone else on the planet, and certainly in the U.S., could have done what we did with MITIE. No one else had the resources, the space, the commitment from hospital leadership, the people – it took a lot of things coming together for MITIE to be what it is. For example, I recently had the opportunity to give my mentor, a worldwide leader in surgical education, a tour of MITIE, and he was completely blown away by the facility, the scope of programs available, and the timeline in which we accomplished this. Even with our initial success, we still have a lot of things we want to do in MITIE, so we aren’t done yet.

Also, some practicing surgeons don’t understand the importance of or the value of educating other clinicians. I’ve been taught that you teach others what you know. I’ve found that in the process of educating others, you learn, too.

Me: You have a lot of ongoing projects, but what are some of the bigger projects you are working on right now?

Dr. Dunkin: The educational project I’m most excited right now is the MITIE Lapco program, which teaches laparoscopic colon surgery. Learners spend four days in MITIE doing hands-on training with experts from around the world. In most courses, that’s where the learning stops, leaving an educational hole where the surgeon goes back to his or her home institution and is alone in the operating room when trying to start doing this new procedure. I’ve always thought technology was the way to fill this gap.

We added telementoring, or the practice of using a videoconferencing system in the operating room to allow an expert surgeon to virtually mentor another surgeon, to the MITIE Lapco program. Learners have an expert with them virtually for their first 10 cases at their home hospitals. We believe that telementoring will help the learning surgeons perform better, safer surgeries and will help increase the U.S. adoption rate of laparoscopic colon surgery.

Microsurgery training at MITIE
Microsurgery is commonly used to reattach severed nerves and blood vessels. Microscopes are needed for these procedures to ensure that the cells in the nerve ending or blood vessel are lined up properly.

Telementoring is doable and every bit as powerful as in-person mentoring. I have hospital CEOs asking for us to offer telementoring for more courses because they’ve seen the outcomes. They know their surgeons will be able to do these advanced procedures safely and effectively and will have happier patients. I think five years from now, we’ll look back on this conversation and laugh because telementoring will be so common.

Me: What’s your favorite MITIE class or research project so far?

Dr. Dunkin: I think the clear favorite is MITIE Lapco. It wasn’t just the course we put on for the learners, but it was the thoughtfulness, time and effort we put in to designing the program from developing the curriculum and organizing telementoring opportunities after the course. And the feedback we got from learners during the course was unlike anything we’d heard before. Almost everyone in our first MITIE Lapco course had been to a previous course on laparoscopic colon surgery at another institution, and they were just blown away with the difference in their confidence level in performing this surgery at the end of our course compared to the others.

Me: What are some upcoming MITIE classes or research projects that you’re most excited about?

Dr. Dunkin: I’m most excited about the next stage of growth for MITIE because we’re right at the threshold of it.

The first stage was designing and building a physical structure. The next stage was building an infrastructure that could support volume and a variety of programs. In the seven years that we’ve been open we’ve had more than 28,000 learners here.

Now, we are at the point where I want to create more programs like MITIE Lapco that address the full spectrum of surgical education. I can’t tell you how many people have told me that no other place is doing what MITIE is doing. What’s really great is that where we want to go with MITIE fits with Houston Methodist’s goal of leading medicine rather than just practicing it. There are a lot of great courses and research projects in MITIE’s future, but it’s the whole MITIE package that I’m most excited about.

The more I see MITIE evolve, the more confident I am that we are going to change the medical world by creating better educational tools and providing them to colleagues from around the world.

Why the work done at MITIE matters

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MITIE provides training to not only doctors, but law enforcement and emergency medical service providers, too.

elcome to part two of a three part series on MITIE – the Houston Methodist Institute for Technology, Innovation and Education. To recap, MITIE is one of the largest and most comprehensive surgical education and research facilities in the world. The first blog was a photo tour of MITIE, and the next blog will feature a Q&A with Dr. Brian Dunkin, the medical director of MITIE.

If you don’t work in health care, you might be wondering why you should care about MITIE and the work we do here. Well, I’ll tell you! There are two main reasons:

  • MITIE is a medical education facility. MITIE provides surgeons and surgical nurses with an opportunity to learn, practice and perfect new surgical techniques.
  • MITIE isn’t just for health care providers. MITIE also partners with other organizations to provide classes with curriculum tailored to their needs. Think law enforcement, emergency medical service providers, etc.
You want surgeons to know the latest techniques and perform them safely. That's the role of MITIE. Click To Tweet

After nursing school or residency, there are few educational facilities surgeons and nurses can go to learn new techniques. Cue MITIE. New surgical techniques are being developed all the time that make surgeries safer and more successful while decreasing the amount of time needed for recovery. You want your surgeons to know these latest and greatest techniques, but to perform them safely and successfully, the doctors need to practice them.

The alternative to practicing in MITIE is practicing on you – any volunteers? I didn’t think so. One example is laparoscopic colon surgery. Laparoscopic surgery, also known as minimally invasive surgery, uses several small incisions instead of one large incision. A laparoscope, or camera, is inserted through one incision and special laparoscopic surgical instruments are inserted through the other incisions. Laparoscopic colon surgery has been practiced in the United States since the 1990s and has been proven to be less painful with less scaring and allows patients to get back to their normal lives faster.

However, the US adoption rate of this procedure hovers around 40 percent because performing a colon surgery laparoscopically is a difficult procedure that is tedious to learn. In October 2014, MITIE hosted a laparoscopic colon surgery course for seven surgeons and their operating room staff. After spending four days training at MITIE, these surgeons returned to their hospital and were mentored by an expert surgeon during their first laparoscopic colon surgery. Several of the learning surgeons noted that the hands-on class at MITIE coupled with mentoring during their first surgeries at home helped increase their comfort level with the procedure and has benefitted their patients with safer surgeries and faster recovery times.

MITIE also partners with other organizations to provide classes with curriculum tailored to their needs. MITIE recently collaborated with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) Tactical Medicine Program to create the HCSO’s first tactical medicine school. Tactical medicine is the delivery of emergency medical care in a law enforcement special operations scenario. 

“Most people don’t know that the Sheriff’s Office is staffed with deputies who are physicians and paramedics who respond to emergencies to provide care to their fellow officers and citizens until EMS can arrive,” explained Dr. Aashish Shah, a HCSO deputy and administrator over the HCSO’s Tactical Medicine Program. 

During the first tactical medicine school, the HCSO Academy hosted the tactical trainings, such as gun safety, medical extraction, building clearing and distraction devices. At MITIE, the students covered a variety of tactical medical tactics, such as triage, airway management, hemorrhaging and burns.

After a week of lectures and practice, the students put it all together with a live High-Risk Operations Unit (HROU) exercise at MITIE. We simulated an active shooter in a hospital scenario to test the participants’ new understanding of tactical medicine. The learners were assigned to teams of SWAT officers. Each team entered the building and took the stairs to the 5th floor where MITIE is located, just like they would do in a real situation.

MITIE doesn't just educate doctors. The institute also trains law enforcement in tactical medicine. Click To Tweet

When they arrived on the 5th floor, they were greeted with a variety of scenarios, including blaring music, a sound track of dogs barking, rooms that were dimly lit or completely dark and random MITIE staff who would act like innocent people caught on the floor or the suspect the team was looking for. Their mission was to locate an injured Oscar or Mayer (you remember the SimMan patient simulators from part 1, right?), provide care to help stabilize the patient then continue to look for the suspect. At the end of the exercise, the students were credentialed by the HCSO to provide tactical medicine support. 

While you may never take a class at MITIE, the work done here affects you. Next week, we’ll sit down with Dr. Brian Dunkin, the medical director of MITIE, for a Q&A about his work and why he’s so passionate about the MITIE.

MITIE cool: An inside look

 admit it. I’m a huge nerd. I love learning about how things work and playing with new gadgets. That’s probably why I’m obsessed with MITIE – the Houston Methodist Institute for Technology, Innovation and Education. Officially, MITIE (the acronym is pronounced mighty) is described as one of the largest and most comprehensive education and research facilities in the world. Unofficially, it’s a playground for nerds like me and practicing medical professionals who want to learn new surgical techniques and research new ideas.

Because I can’t fit all of my love for MITIE into one blog, this is the first of a three-part series on MITIE. We’re kicking it off with a photo tour, followed by a review of a recent MITIE class and how it affects average people like you and me, and wrapping up with a Q&A with Dr. Brian Dunkin, the medical director of MITIE (one of the smartest people I know).

Here we go! Please keep arms and legs inside at all times! 

1 - Lobby #1

MITIE spans the entire fifth floor of the Houston Methodist Research Institute. Obviously, the lobby is the first stop. You feel smarter as soon as walk in, and there’s a reason why. The designers wanted MITIE learners to feel like they were entering a professional, modern environment as soon as they stepped off the elevators. The entire floor gives you the smart people vibe with the floor to ceiling windows overlooking the Texas Medical Center and the bright wall colors.

2 - Lobby #2From the lobby, we go to the Med Presence Suite. It has three, 72-inch flat screens at the front of the room and three rows of seating for lectures. Monitors come up out of the desks if you need a closer look at what’s on the big screen. Most often the screens are used to observe a live surgery happening in an operating room at Houston Methodist Hospital or a training surgery in a simulated operating room in MITIE. The Med Presence Suite would also be a good place to watch the game. I’ll bring the chips and salsa. #GoTexans 3 - Med Pres

Next stop is MITIE’s newest addition: the hybrid operating room. It contains a robotically guided rotational fluoroscopy machine and an MRI machine. Having both imaging capabilities in a single operating room provides surgeons with better visualization inside the body to help them perform more complex procedures. The majority of the surgeries practiced in this room are to treat vascular issues. 4 - Hybrid OR #1

Other days, the hybrid room is home to one of NASA’s space suits. After an Italian astronaut almost drowned in July 2013 due to a leak in his helmet during a spacewalk, NASA set out to find innovative solutions to prevent future space suit malfunctions. They asked researchers at the Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center to perform a fluoroscopic CT scan to better see the components inside the suit and help identify areas of concern. For more about the NASA and Houston Methodist collaboration, you can read this story or watch this video.

 6 - Hybrid OR #3

Next up, the Procedural Skills Lab, or PSL if you’re in the know. Think of the PSL as a massive room with multiple mini operating rooms inside. Each of the stations has a monitor connected to a camera at a teaching station. This allows a learner to stand across the room at another practice station and still observe what the teaching surgeon is doing. The PSL is used for surgeons to practice performing an operation, mastering a new surgical technique, and learning how to use new equipment safely on various types of anatomical and inanimate models. To simulate an actual operating room, the students will wear protective equipment, such as hairnets, masks, gowns and gloves. The PSL is one of the most important rooms in MITIE. Why? Because you want your surgeon to know the latest and greatest techniques, but you don’t want them to practice on you. At least, I don’t. Mitie8

From the PSL, we walk down the hall to the private operating rooms. The first one is a CT operating room. It’s based on the same concept as the hybrid operating room, but this imaging type is ideal for orthopedic surgeries because bones show up better on CT scans.Mitie10

Did you notice that several training rooms in MITIE have imaging capabilities? We have several imaging modalities available in MITIE because many Houston Methodist researchers are focused on improving visualizations inside the body to make surgeries safer and less invasive.

A few of these private operating rooms do not have imaging capabilities so that MITIE can have more flexibility in the type of work done in these rooms. For example, researchers can test a new product or surgical technique here in preparation for sending it to the FDA or other organizations for approval.

We can also set up the Da Vinci robot system in one of these private operating rooms. In this picture, the Da Vinci is set up for a physician to learn how to safely operate with it. We have three Da Vinci robot systems, and they’re super cool (if you can pretend that you’re not being operated on by a huge spider robot). Mitie11

Across the hall from these operating rooms are microsurgery training rooms. Microsurgery is commonly used to reattach severed nerves and blood vessels. Microscopes are needed for these procedures to ensure that the cells in the nerve ending or blood vessel are lined up properly.

13 - Microsurgery Room

Our next stop is a set of rooms that serve as a virtual hospital. Much like a flight simulator for training pilots, the virtual hospital is designed to put learners in a real environment to help them learn. The simulation rooms include typical equipment seen in a hospital or triage room. For training here, we have two SimMan patient simulators named Oscar and Mayer. A tech in a connecting room can control Oscar and Mayer to make them breathe, talk, laugh, cry, go into cardiac arrest, etc. The boys will even react when a trainee gives them medicine based on the scenario they have been programmed to run.Mitie14

At the end of the hall are our partial task rooms. This long room can be divided into several rooms for smaller courses. In this picture, we have airway models set up for a course on intubation.

Mitie16

Last stop – the conference rooms. Not super exciting because of everything we’ve just seen, but they are used for meetings and as staging areas for courses. Most of the walls in these rooms are covered with whiteboard for drawing illustrations or other creative things during meetings. In case you didn’t know, you can also use dry-erase markers on the floor-to-ceiling windows in these rooms. The marks will wipe off with an eraser for a whiteboard. In case you’re wondering, yes, I’ve drawn on almost every window in my house since learning this.    Mitie17

 

That’s it! Thanks for joining us on this tour of the Houston Methodist Institute for Technology, Innovation & Education. MITIE is a great place to learn and discover new things.

Common injuries at RODEOHOUSTON

Rodeo has returned to Houston! Last week, we shared what a typical day was like for the RodeoHouston® sports medicine team. To recap, Houston Methodist serves as the official health care provider for RodeoHouston. The sports medicine team consists of medical volunteers from across the city, who take care of the rodeo athletes and their families before, during and after the competitions.

Just like any other elite athlete, @rodeohouston competitors deal with injuries. Click To Tweet

Just like any other elite athlete, rodeo competitors deal with injuries. But did you know the types of injuries vary by competition? I talked to Dr. Timothy Sitter, the lead orthopedic surgeon on the RodeoHouston sports medicine team, about the rodeo injuries he’s seen in his nearly 20 years working with RodeoHouston.

Tie-Down Roping and Steer Wrestling: The most common injuries in these rodeo athletes occur in the knee. “If you’ve ever wondered why the dirt on the stadium or arena floor is being tilled up between events, it’s to keep it soft for events like tie-down roping and steer wrestling,” Dr. Sitter said. “These cowboys are coming down off their horses fast, so they keep the dirt around one foot-thick and soft because hitting a hard surface, like packed dirt, can cause a lot of damage to the knee.”

DSC01702-XL

Team Roping: As part of this event, the cowboy or cowgirl must wrap the rope around their saddle horn a few times after they’ve roped the steer. Because the steer will pull on and tighten the rope, the competitor’s must wrap the rope around the saddle horn quickly and be sure to get their hands out of the way. Many riders have gotten their fingers caught in the rope while wrapping it around the saddle horn causing damage to or even losing a finger.

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Bareback and Saddle Bronc Riding: “Elbow and shoulder injuries are common in this event,” Dr. Sitter said. “The cowboys are holding on to the rope to stay on the horse, so their shoulder and elbow are under a lot of stress. These athletes deal with a lot of sprains, strains and ligament tears.” Dr. Sitter added that most of these cowboys also wear neck collars to help prevent whiplash.

Barrel Racing: The key to barrel racing is to make tight turns around the barrels. Dr. Sitter said many of the cowgirls will hit their knees on the barrels, which can cause ligament tears and even fractures.

DSC01555-XL

Bull Riding: One might think that the most common injury in bull riders is caused by whiplash or getting their hand caught in the rope, but the most common injury in these athletes is to the groin and hip. “The cowboys are holding on to the bull with their knees,” Dr. Sitter said. “The groin and hip muscles are straining because the knees are clinching on to the bull. Many bull riders work on increasing the flexibility in their hips to help prevent groin and hip muscle strains.”

No matter the event or injuries, the cowboys and cowgirls at RodeoHouston have a multi-disciplinary team at the ready to take care of them and get them back in the saddle.

BYOL: Bring your own ligaments

t’s funny how things change as you age. For instance, we all reach a point where we don’t have to have the newest or best of everything – we just need something that works. You might feel that way about your car or your phone, but what about your ACL and PCL?

A new total knee replacement features a shape that protects that island of bone & saves the ligaments Click To Tweet

The ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, and PCL, or posterior cruciate ligament, are located in your knee and are essential to natural knee movement and function. That’s why you hear about so many athletes getting a torn ACL repaired – you need those ligaments to function properly.

“These ligaments provide stability for the joint and increase the patient’s ability to perform complex movements, such as dancing, gardening or golfing,” explained Dr. Bill Bryan, a Houston Methodist orthopedic surgeon.

When you are old enough for a knee replacement, your ACL and PCL are certainly a bit worn out, but they still work, which is good enough for you. So why do surgeons remove the ACL and PCL when you have a knee replacement? Until now, they’ve not had an option.

A traditional total knee replacement requires removing the “island” of bone to which the ACL and PCL are attached. A new total knee replacement implant features a shape that protects that island of bone and saves the ligaments.

Dr. Bryan was one of 10 surgeons from across the country and the only surgeon in Houston to be selected as an early evaluator of the XP knee, made by Biomet, which features the new ligament-saving design.

“Most of my knee replacements patients are completely happy with their new knee, but some complain that they are not able to physically do everything they previously could,” Dr. Bryan said. “By saving the ligaments, this knee implant provides an improved range of motion and increases joint stability and natural movement for knee replacement patients,” Dr. Bryan said.

Dr. Bryan believes that another benefit of saving the ACL and PCL for knee replacement patients is that the ligaments will take some of the strain off the metal and plastic components of the knee replacement and help it to last longer. Most artificial knees last approximately 10 years before needing to be replaced.

“For many years, orthopedic surgeons have recognized the need for total knee replacements that save the ligaments,” Dr. Bryan said. “Now that technology and design have caught up with us, patients can now get a total knee replacement that works and feels a lot like a normal knee.”

How often do ACL tears happen to athletes?

How’s your fantasy football team doing? Lost any star players to an anterior cruciate ligament or ACL tear? St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford is out for a tear in his left knee for the second season in a row. Stephen Tulloch, a linebacker for the Detroit Lions, went down in week three with an ACL tear in his left knee.

ACL tears are common in football players and in professional, amateur and youth athletes in other contact sports with more than 250,000 occurring each year. An ACL tear is a season-ending injury, but does it signal the end of an athlete’s career? Not necessarily.

ACL tears affect 250,000 athletes each year Click To Tweet

So how often do athletes with ACL tears return to the sport they love? Dr. Joshua Harris, a Houston Methodist orthopedic surgeon, sought out to find just that. He matched athletes with ACL tears in the National Football League, National Basketball Association, National Hockey League, Major League Soccer and the X Games to athletes without tears based on age, experience and pre-tear performance.

“In addition to determining how often these athletes are able to return to sport after an ACL tear, our studies also revealed interesting patterns in ACL tears,” Dr. Harris said. “For example, we were able to determine which NBA playing positions had a harder time recovering and which knee was more susceptible to ACL tears in MLS players.”

National Hockey League

Athletes in the NHL had a return to sport rate of 97 percent – the highest rate of all major sports leagues. Left-handed shooters are more likely to tear their ACL, but all performed better after returning to the ice.

National Football League

Because the rates of ACL tears in the NFL are so high and specific offensive and defensive positions are unique in their cutting and pivoting demands on the knee, Dr. Harris and his team decided to narrow their research for this study to quarterbacks. The researchers found quarterbacks have a return to sport rate of 92 percent and, on average, played for five years after returning from an ACL tear, which proved ACL tears are not career-ending injuries for quarterbacks.

 

National Basketball Association

Dr. Harris found that 62 percent of ACL tears in the NBA occur in the second half, mostly in the fourth quarter of the game, possibly due to fatigue. Overall, NBA athletes have a high return to sport rate of 86 percent. Guards have the most difficult time returning to sport, while centers have the most predictable outcomes.

Major League Soccer

While most injuries in Major League Soccer athletes are non-contact injuries, these players tend to have more ACL tears in their left knee and have a 77 percent chance of returning to the field after an ACL tear.

“Because of the cutting and pivoting nature of soccer, MLS players may have more ACL tears in the leg they plant with,” Dr. Harris said. “The majority of soccer players kick with their right and plant with their left, which may explain why they tend to have more ACL tears in their left knee.”

X Games

Dr. Harris and his team looked specifically at skiers and snowboarders. Skiers tend to have more tears in their left knee and had an 87 percent chance of returning to their sport. Snowboarders had a 70 percent return to sport rate and won more medals after recovering from an ACL tear.

“This injury can happen to anyone,” Dr. Harris explained. “Researching ACL tears in athletes helps all of our patients because we are able to evaluate treatments and bring the best solutions back to our practice.”

Beyond Friday Night Lights

mployment of athletic trainers is expected to increase 30 percent between 2010 and 2020, especially in schools and youth leagues. Why? Because the long overdo realization that athletic trainers are essential members of the teams they support. They provide not only locker room and training guidance but also sideline medical care for everything from cuts to concussions. 

Approximately 8,000 children are treated in emergency rooms each day for sports-related injures. (Statistic via Clearedtoplay.org)
Approximately 8,000 children are treated in emergency rooms each day for sports-related injures.

Over the years, we’ve all seen the number of sports leagues increase and the offseason time decrease. Often, students are going from one sport to the next without a real break—leaving their bodies ripe for injury.

Scott Tidwell, an outreach coordinator and athletic trainer with Houston Methodist Orthopedics & Sports Medicine, says the increase in injuries is driving the demand to have athletic trainers involved in the prevention and evaluation of sports injuries.

As the parent of a Hardin football player, Scott doesn’t go to the games just to watch his son play; he goes to work. It’s not unusual to see him on the sidelines of a Friday night varsity football game or a junior varsity basketball game at Hardin High School in Hardin, Texas.

Athletic trainer employment is expected to increase 30% due to the sideline medical care these experts provide Click To Tweet

Scotts visits once a week to work with athletes in grades seven to 12 at Hardin Junior High and High schools. He checks to see if an athlete is following the treatment plan provided by their doctor or physical therapist or evaluates a new injury. He also works with the coaches on everything from conditioning and equipment to nutrition in order to minimize injury.

Through Scott’s weekly visits to the Hardin campuses, he becomes familiar with the athletes and their families. This familiarity proved invaluable to Zane Drake, a football and baseball player at Hardin High School. After tackling an opponent during a Friday night game in 2010, then 13-year-old Zane was removed from the game.

 

I don’t like to admit when I’m in pain. But, after that tackle, I felt tingling in my neck and legs and could tell I wasn’t functioning correctly. Scott was there and knew immediately something was wrong. He got me on a stretcher and helped me keep calm.

 

Zane was flown to a nearby hospital to be checked for a suspected neck injury and was diagnosed with a stinger, a minor nerve injury common in athletes in high-contact sports. Since then, Zane has dealt with ankle injuries every football season. But with every injury, Scott has been there with guidance and advice.

Scott says it’s about connecting the Houston Methodist level of care with the community that he’s in that day. Whether he’s visiting Hardin, Onalaska or High Island, he’s incredibly passionate about being able to help the coaches, athletes and families of the communities he works in. 

For more information about the athletic training services provided by Houston Methodist, call the Houston Methodist Sports Medicine Hotline, staffed 24/7 by athletic trainers, at 713.441.8440.

 

5 signs you may need a knee replacement

More than 600,000 knee replacements are performed each year in the United States, and an aging population will continue to drive that number up. If knee pain is affecting your daily life, it might be time to ask your physician about a knee replacement.

Before you take another pain reliever, consider these five signs from Dr. Stephen Incavo, an orthopedic surgeon at Houston Methodist, that suggest it’s time for a knee replacement.

Sign #1: Decrease in activity level or quality of life

Knee pain should not affect your daily routine or prevent you from enjoying your favorite activities. If you experience in a decrease in activity level or quality of life, talk to your doctor.

Sign #2: Pain and/or stiffness at night

If you dread the evening because your knees begin to stiffen up or become painful, you might be a good candidate for a knee replacement.

“Some patients will only have knee pain or stiffness at night, so they think they don’t need a knee replacement. It isn’t normal to be unable to sleep at night due to knee pain.”

More than 600,000 knee replacements are performed each year in the United States Click To Tweet

Sign #3: Non-surgical options no longer help

In some cases, your physician may recommend trying non-surgical options, such as physical therapy or anti-inflammatory medicine, to provide pain relief. If the non-surgical treatment doesn’t help or stops helping, don’t hesitate to go back for a visit.

“Don’t wait too long after non-surgical options stop helping to come back in. The goal is to get you back to a happy, pain-free life, but you have to tell your doctor when something isn’t working for you.”

Sign #4: Future prognosis is not good

For many, your knee pain slowly erodes activity level or quality of life. But if the condition of your knee will continue to worsen, why wait? 

“So many patients with arthritis know they will eventually need a knee replacement, but think they aren’t ready for it yet. But think about your current situation. Ask yourself if you want to enjoy your present years or wait until you’re older and potentially lose all mobility.”

Sign #5: The first replacement has not helped

Unfortunately, not all knee replacements function properly and may require a revision surgery to correct the problem. 

Reviewed by Dr. Stephen Incavo

A Houston Methodist military hero

I have always loved the saying that real superheroes don’t wear capes, they wear dog tags. Sometimes, they wear dog tags, scrubs and a Houston Methodist badge.

As a senior clinical outcomes analyst in the radiology department at Houston Methodist, Jared Pittsenbargar focuses on quality management and performance improvement and is actively involved in numerous programs to further improve care for our patients. As a Master Sergeant in the U.S. Air Force Reserves, Jared currently serves as the combat readiness mobility superintendent for his Air Force unit.

Jared Pittsenbargar holds an American flag and letter commemorating Operation Enduring Freedom. He is pictured with Dr. Marc Boom, president and CEO of Houston Methodist.
Jared Pittsenbargar holds an American flag and letter commemorating Operation Enduring Freedom. He is pictured with Dr. Marc Boom (middle), president and CEO of Houston Methodist.

Jared enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1988 and served four years on active duty. During that time, he managed ground and air transportation logistics at a strategic missile wing, and deployed in support of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. After retiring from active duty, Jared continued to serve his country in the Air Force Reserves. After nearly 22 years as a reservist, he has been on numerous combat training missions and deployments.

Jared began his Houston Methodist career in 2003. In 2011, he took military leave when he was deployed to Afghanistan for six months. For that tour, he was awarded several decorations including the Air Force Commendation Medal, the second in his career.

“While I was deployed to Afghanistan, my Houston Methodist coworkers sent me numerous letters, cards and packages,” Jared said. “Their well wishes meant a lot not only to me, but to my fellow Airmen. Knowing that someone back home is thinking of us makes our time overseas easier.”

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An American flag that was flown on a combat mission during Operation Enduring Freedom now hangs in Houston Methodist Hospital.

To show his appreciation, Jared wrote a letter and sent an American flag that was flown on a combat mission in a UH-60L Blackhawk helicopter during Operation Enduring Freedom XI to Dr. Marc Boom, president and CEO of Houston Methodist. The flag now hangs in the Main Building of Houston Methodist Hospital.

“The transition from battlefield to workplace is incredibly difficult, but the executives and staff at Houston Methodist made it easy for me,” Jared said. “Our I CARE values create a unique family atmosphere that supported me before, during and after deployment.”

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Because of Jared’s homecoming experience at Houston Methodist, he focuses on welcoming home each troop from his unit and caring for their stateside needs with dignity and respect – taking his I CARE values from the hospital to reserves.

No matter where you spend your July 4 holiday, take a moment to remember a military hero protecting our freedoms and thank them for their service.