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Novel Wrist Procedure Gets Andrew Bares Back to Activities in Just Days

Grant Lohse, MD

Andrew Bares loves a good adventure. He’s a rock climber, mountain biker, and ultra hiker.

“I’m super into hiking,” Bares said. “I consider ultra the stuff where you do trips that most people wouldn’t attempt in a day. One time I did a 40-mile hike with 9,000-feet of elevation gain in 15 hours.”

Bares enjoys pushing himself to the limit, and the rush of adrenaline that comes with it. But extreme activities also come with plenty of risk.

Bares was snowboarding with a friend at Snoqualmie Pass in January 2017. As he was making his way down a run, Bares noticed a jump near a chairlift pole. Trying to catch up with his friend, he was going faster than normal, but the jump was too good to pass up. It hadn’t snowed for about a week, so the conditions were compact and icy. That, combined with speed, prevented Bares from turning like he wanted to. He hit the jump, barely missing the chairlift pole.

“I messed up the landing and must have caught an edge,” said the 24-year-old from Bellevue. “I fell backward or sideways. I’m not sure what I did with my hand, but I clearly put it down to catch myself.”

Bares instantly assumed something was broken.

“It wasn’t dramatically painful or anything,” he said, “but I knew something was probably wrong.”

He was right. Bares fractured his distal radius – the most commonly broken bone in the arm. In layman’s terms, he had a broken wrist. And that’s what brought him to Proliance Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine.

Bares first tried taking the natural route to healing. He was put in a brace and told to allow six months for recovery. After recently dealing with a stress fracture in his foot, that wasn’t the timeframe Bares wanted to hear.

“The biggest fear about breaking my wrist was that I wouldn’t be able to go hiking and running for a long time again,” said Bares. “I was already out of the game previously.”

The bad news kept coming. After two weeks in a splint, Bares’ wrist wasn’t healing properly because his bone kept shifting. That’s when he was introduced to Dr. Grant Lohse – a hand, wrist, and elbow specialist at POSM.

Dr. Lohse created a method known as Distal Radius Advanced Rehab Protocol. As is typically done with a broken wrist, Dr. Lohse surgically repairs the distal radius with a plate and screws. However, unlike traditional wrist surgery, splints/braces are not required following the procedure, and patients begin physical therapy just days after surgery. The goal is to get people back to work and activities at least twice as quickly as normal procedures.

“I was worried about surgery in general,” Bares said. “I’d never had surgery other than dental work, so that had me a bit concerned. I wasn’t eager to choose surgery if it wasn’t necessary.”

Since his wrist wasn’t healing correctly, surgery became Bares’ only option. He had the procedure and started rehabilitation two days later. Three days after surgery, he was typing with both hands.

“That was really impressive,” Bares said. “I was definitely surprised to come out of surgery and be typing three days later. That was pretty cool.”

His progress didn’t stop there. Five days after surgery, Bares went for a hike. Two days after the hike, he went for a run. In his own estimation, Bares was back to 99 percent of his daily activities just 19 days after the procedure. He was also able to return to his job.

“I was able to type again,” said Bares, a software engineer. “If I was still in a cast and not able to type normally, I wouldn’t have been able to get half that work done. That was definitely a very good improvement.”

After originally hesitating about surgery, Bares said Distal Radius Advanced Rehab Protocol turned into the best outcome for him, and he recommends the method to others.

“If I broke my wrist again, I would just have them bolt it. Cut me open, do it,” Bares said. “Seeing how quick and how good of a recovery it can be, it definitely just makes it an obvious choice. It wouldn’t be a second thought.”