Dr. Steinberg Performs Total Elbow Joint Replacement to Successfully Treat Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain

While Mrs. Bonnie B. may not use these words herself, clearly hers is a story of perseverance, optimism and the power of a “can-do” attitude. What she will talk about is how expert medical care, specifically that provided by Bruce Steinberg, M.D., a specialist in the upper extremity, has helped to give her a decent quality of life. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic, degenerative disease with symptoms that can include damage to bones (joints), tendons, ligaments, and cartilage. Joint deformity, disability, and extreme pain often occur. Over the years Mrs. B. has undergone multiple procedures and surgeries from deterioration that has occurred because of her RA. “At a certain point, you just stop counting, but it’s fair to say that I have spent plenty of time with doctors and physical therapists!”

In her most recent incident, Mrs. B. was having quite a bit of pain in her right elbow. She went to see Dr. Steinberg for assessment. After consulting with Gary Kitay, M.D., also a specialist in the upper extremity at JOI, Dr. Steinberg told Mrs. B. that he and his colleague agreed that a major surgical intervention that may lead to dysfunction and/or pain was not warranted at that time. However, they were concerned that the progressive destruction of the elbow may eventually eliminate options. At that point, the decision was made to review the elbow in six months to determine appropriate action.

As may be the case with those who suffer from RA, it was actually the same joint on the other side that became the emergent problem. Due to the symmetrical nature of RA, if a joint on one side of the body is impacted, the corresponding joint on the other side may as well. For Mrs. B., one day, about six months after her right elbow problems, she both felt, and heard, a loud crack in her left elbow. “I knew something was really wrong, because the pain was excruciating.” Dr. Steinberg diagnosed her with a fracture of the left distal humerus. After additional consultation and careful consideration of all options, Dr. Steinberg determined that immobilization by use of a splint and careful observation was the best course of action. Mrs. B was also hopeful of avoiding another surgery, but after several months, determined that she was no longer able to live with her left arm in a splint all the time. Dr. Steinberg performed a total joint replacement of the left elbow.

“Before the surgery, Dr. Steinberg explained to me that this was a big operation. As always, he thoroughly described the procedure, and even more importantly to me, what I could expect afterwards in my recovery. What I know about Dr. Steinberg is that he does not take short-cuts. I knew he would give me every opportunity to gain use of my left arm again. Obviously the surgery was a tremendous success, because I am back to full-function with no pain.”

Mrs. B appreciates Dr. Steinberg’s desire to give her the best chances for long-term continued comfortable use of her arms. He has always emphasized that he will do what he can through procedures and surgery, but that she has responsibility for following therapy protocol. “You know you’ve spent a lot of time in rehab when you’re in line at Universal Studios and a JOI therapist, other than your own, recognizes you! Dr. Steinberg has always said that therapy is key to my resuming maximum function, and I do as he says. So I do know and respect the therapists at JOI, and apparently they know me as well!”

Mrs. B. is cognizant that with her condition, she will continue to require medical interventions when injuries arise. But she has determined to focus on what she can do in life, rather than what she can’t do. “I don’t think about my limitations. I just do what I’m able, and get on with it. But it is comforting to know that I have Dr. Steinberg as part of my team. There’s no question he is excellent at what he does, and that he has my long-term best interest at heart”. When asked if she would be willing to share this part of her story, Mrs. B. did not hesitate for a second. “Before the question was complete, I said ‘of course’. If I can help others by sharing my story, then I am happy to do so. And I could not recommend Dr. Steinberg any more strongly. He is an expert who truly cares.”

– Bonnie B.