Ultrasound diagnosis saves Julie from weeks of unnecessary pain after thumb injury

While bowling with friends, Julie Lensing slipped and fell on her left hand. A trip to the emergency room at a community hospital confirmed that she hadn’t fractured any bones. But the pain and swelling only got worse, and she couldn’t grip anything with her left hand.

Julie Lensing opens a door
Two months after surgery, Julie could once again use her thumb for simple daily living tasks such as pushing the lever down on a door handle to open a door.

Julie turned to University of Iowa Health Care for a better solution. She was able to schedule an appointment quickly, and a few days later, she met with UI nurse practitioner Katharine Staniforth, ARNP. Staniforth specializes in diagnostic ultrasound, a safe, painless way to examine injuries like Julie’s to find out the cause of the pain and to help decide the best way to treat it.

Diagnostic ultrasound: ‘A huge asset that most other clinics don’t have’

Staniforth diagnosed Julie with a condition known as skier’s thumb, in which the ligament is torn from the bone it supports. Skier’s thumb rarely heals on its own and instead requires surgery to get better.

Staniforth immediately asked UI orthopedic surgeon Timothy Fowler, MD, to meet with Julie to make a treatment plan.

By the time Julie left UI Hospitals & Clinics that day, she knew why her hand hurt so badly, and she had an appointment scheduled for the surgery that would fix it.

Fowler says Staniforth’s ability to provide a same-day diagnosis is an advantage that saves UI Health Care’s patients a lot of time and misery.

“Getting a clear diagnosis saved Julie weeks of treatment for something that would not likely have healed without surgery,” Fowler says. “Katharine’s ultrasound skills are a huge asset that most other clinics don’t have.”

Efficiency of UI Health Care employees ‘really made a difference’

After Fowler performed the surgery to reattach the ligament, Julie wore a brace on her hand for six weeks. Soon after, she was exercising the thumb regularly.

“About two months after the surgery, I was able to exercise my thumb more,” Julie says. “I didn’t need any physical therapy, since I could move it back and forth better than I could before the surgery.”

While Julie’s pleased to have her hand working properly again, she’s also impressed with the way her UI Health Care team worked together to give her the care she needed quickly and simply.

“I’m really happy with the ease of the whole process,” she says. “The efficiency of the employees really made a difference.”