Can Twitter help heal ulnotriquetral split tears? And help more patients with wrist pain?
In a word, yes.
In the first half of 2010, Richard Berger, M.D., Ph.D., a consultant in the Division of Orthopedic Surgery at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., performed more procedures to repair ulnotriquetral (UT) split tears than he did in the entire previous year. That increase is attributable to Mayo Clinic social media.
It started in 2006, when Dr. Berger performed surgery on Jayson Werth, a professional baseball player. Werth, an outfielder formerly with the Los Angeles Dodgers, had injured his wrist a year before when he was hit by a pitch. He'd had chronic pain and was considering life without baseball if he could not get to the root of the injury. Werth's Mayo Clinic surgery to repair the UT split tear was successful, and Werth was signed by the Philadelphia Phillies. Since then, he has signed with the Washington Nationals. Werth says the surgery saved his baseball career.
Mayo Clinic posted a YouTube video of Werth talking about his injury and the help he received at Mayo Clinic, which led to a story in USA Today. Mayo and USA Today held a Twitter chat the day the article appeared, giving readers a chance to ask questions of Dr. Berger.
One participant in the Twitter chat, Erin Turner, had suffered from wrist pain that ranged from nagging to excruciating for five years. She repeatedly consulted an orthopedic surgeon in Washington, D.C., but didn't find answers or relief.
On the Twitter conversation, Erin "met" Dr. Berger.
"I was able to correspond with Dr. Berger about the pain I experienced and the options I had been provided," Turner writes in her blog. "Through our 140-character-at-a-time dialogue, I developed a rapport with Dr. Berger, which influenced my decision to seek his counsel and ultimately select him as my surgeon."
In addition to performing more procedures, Dr. Berger has also referred interested patients to former residents and fellows who trained with him and are skilled at this procedure.
Mayo Clinic researchers were the first to identify a split UT ligament as a cause of ulnar wrist pain. Dr. Berger was the first to identify this type of injury and developed a surgical repair. The injury is common but almost always undiagnosed because it doesn't look like the typical ligament tear.