a simple mistake

Benjamin was leaving the house for work, just like any other day. When he shut the back door, it wouldn’t close properly. He tried again. It still wouldn’t close. He gave it one final shove, sending his arm through the window, slicing it and causing it to bleed profusely.

Benjamin was rushed to the hospital, where he underwent emergency surgery to save his life. Fortunately, his surgeons were also able to save his arm. But after surgery, he found himself in agonizing pain.

“It felt like someone had put it [my arm] in a vice grip and was cranking on it,” Benjamin said.

The pain prevented him from sleeping more than a couple hours a night. It also severely impacted his livelihood. The pain was so unbearable that he was unable to work.

finding someone to listen

Benjamin tried to push through the chronic pain and move on with his life, but the pain was relentless. And worse, people kept dismissing his concerns.

“I was trying to get help and nobody really believed me. They just kept telling me that I needed to get back to work and move it. I kept telling them that something wasn’t right,” Benjamin said. “I have a high tolerance for pain, but people didn’t understand the pain I was going through every day, all day long.”

help at last

Finally, after struggling to find someone who understood his pain, Benjamin was referred to Dr. Brandon M. Smetana at Indiana Hand to Shoulder. Instead of dismissing Benjamin’s concerns or suggesting more pain medication, Dr. Smetana believed he could alleviate some of Benjamin’s pain with surgical nerve repair.

During surgery, Dr. Smetana discovered three or four areas along Benjamin’s forearm where his nerve was damaged and neuromas had formed after his injury and were causing the pain. Neuromas are tangled areas of scar tissue in the nerve that send inappropriate signals to the brain. He removed the neuromas and then used Avance® Nerve Graft to bridge the gap and allow the nerve to repair itself.

Dr. Smetana explained that nerve injuries like Benjamin’s can be easily missed. “With trauma, the main goal is to save your life and then your limb. It’s actually quite frequent to have smaller nerve injuries that go unrecognized for longer periods of time. I see a lot of patients that have seen a number of physicians and they’re seeking their third or fourth opinion, or have been told that there wasn’t anything that was wrong and are sent to chronic pain management to manage their continued pain. There is a growing respect for how debilitating nerve injuries can be and a growing understanding of what types of nerve injuries can cause continued pain afterwards.”

the healing continues

After a neuroma is removed, patients may experience immediate improvement. From there, the nerve continues to recover over time, which can improve function and reduce pain.

Today Benjamin is back to building his business, working nearly six hours every day.

“When I was able to get back to work, I felt really good. I could provide for my family again. That means a lot to me. I’m a survivor one way or another. And it made me feel good to start surviving again.”

Dr. Smetana is a paid consultant of Axogen Corporation.

could surgical nerve repair help you?

If you’re facing chronic pain after a traumatic injury or a surgical procedure, answer these questions to determine if you’re a candidate, and get connected to a surgeon who may be able to help.

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