Getting back to good health – Carrie’s story

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Carrie Brinson Schulze and her husband, Ryan Schulze

When you visit or are referred to VCU Health at Baird Vascular Institute complaining of leg pain, we take a very close look at what’s behind it. Leg pain can be one of the first and most common symptoms of peripheral vascular disease, a variety of conditions and diseases that affect the arteries of the body, usually in the heart, brain and especially the legs, that can have life-threatening consequences. So leg pain is our signal to check out your overall vascular health.

Carrie Brinson Schulze experienced some unusual leg pain and swelling. Though she was only 33 at the time, and much too young, she thought, to experience such symptoms, she decided to come to us for an evaluation.

“I’m a chef and I stand all day long, sometimes 12 to 15 hours a day depending on what I’m doing,” she said. “About 4 years ago, I noticed that I would get a large amount of swelling in my left leg, and some bulging veins in my left calf, not the small spider-like veins, but big bumps on my leg.”

Her symptoms started appearing in 2012 after the birth of her child. It was then she noticed that after long periods of standing her left leg would swell to almost twice the size of her right leg. At the time, she didn’t have health insurance, but had been previously been tested for muscular issues and blood clots, and the results were negative.

“Living downtown, I was familiar with Baird Vascular Institute because I had seen their billboards,” said Carrie. “When I finally got health insurance, the very first appointment I made was to Baird Vascular.”

She had her first appointment with us in 2015. Since that time, she has had three separate procedures with our team.

“My experience with Baird Vascular Institute has been amazing,” said Carrie. “The first time I called there, the receptionist happened to be on vacation and I actually talked to Cindy, the one who does the ultrasounds. She fielded my call and made me feel very comfortable, and told me over the phone what to expect with my first appointment. She assured me that I was calling the right place.”

“When I came in for my first appointment with Dr. Komorowski,” she continued, “The ladies at the reception desk, Deena and Tiffany, were super fast, efficient, friendly, courteous – they were so great!”

“At the time of this appointment, I was 33 years old and my anxiety level was through the roof,” she admits. “I thought I was too young for anything like this to be happening. So I was really scared at my first appointment.”

Our experienced staff soon eased Carrie’s fears. “I first met nurse Richard – who is amazing,” said Carrie. “He has the best bedside manner of anyone I’ve ever met – nurse or doctor. He just makes you feel so relaxed with his great sense of humor and good stories. He assured me I would be OK.”

Carrie underwent a vascular ultrasound exam with Dr. Komorowski and discovered that her greater saphenous vein was four times its normal size. “That’s when I learned that I would need an ablation and at least 2 procedures to correct the problem,” said Carrie.

Carrie underwent the first procedure soon after her exam, and the only issue she had was some sickness from the anesthesia. “I had to stay in the recovery room for several hours because of the nausea,” Carrie recalled. “The staff took such excellent care of me and even called me that night to check on me. They followed me very closely throughout my recovery.”

When she came in for her follow up appointments, she had recovered well and got the approval to proceed with her second procedure. “This time,” she said, Nurse Richard had done some thinking on my behalf after the first procedure, knowing that I gotten very ill from the anesthesia. This time, they sent me a little patch to put behind my ear to prevent nausea.” She continued, “Richard really went above and beyond to comfort me in that manner – he really takes excellent care of his patients.” She underwent a second procedure to close the lower saphenous and some branch veins.

“I had to go in there a lot because I had 3 procedures, with many pre- and post-op appointments, and 2 week and 6 week follow ups,” she said. “I never felt like ‘just a patient,’ because they really take their time to answer all your questions thoroughly.”

“In May of this year, I had my final yearly examination,” said Carrie. “Right now, everything has been good.”

“I used to stand and within a minute, I would get a bulge in the back of my calf and my ankles and I would have fatigue and pain, and now I don’t have that any more,” Carrie said. “My leg doesn’t swell anymore.”

Carrie notes that she was particularly impressed with the technology at Baird Vascular Institute. “It’s not a scary thing to go into the clinic like it is to check into the hospital,” she said. “You’re kind of awake while they’re doing the procedure, they let you pick out the music you listen to, it was all very relaxed.”

“If I do need to go back in the future, I have no worries,” Carrie continued. “I’ve just been really impressed with that whole clinic.”

Carrie concluded, “I feel like I’m finally on the path to wellness. I’ve been able to exercise again, and standing at my job is no problem. It was a successful treatment for me, definitely.”

If you’re facing leg pain like Carrie, we have the latest in technology, techniques and medications to treat vascular disease, ease your pain and help you get back into good health. Call us at (804) 828-2600 to discuss your options.

Who are the best candidates for image guided tendon treatment?

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Tendons are the tough, flexible bands of tissue that connect your muscles to the bones in your joints, working together to allow all the twisting, gripping, grabbing, bending and lifting in your busy life. But repetitive pounding motions can cause microscopic tears every time you use your tendon. As you keep at it, these micro tears do not have time to heal properly and, unless treated, can get worse, making you suffer for months or years. This condition is often called simply tendinitis (tendon inflammation), but usually is actually tendinosis, tendon tissue that has simply broken down from the overuse and micro tears.

It’s impossible to ignore the pain…and you shouldn’t. Tendon injuries need attention. Sometimes, rest, therapy and a change in activities may ease the pain…but often the damage is permanent, and only gets worse.

We talked to Dr. Jeffrey Elbich, who said, “The majority of the time, tendon pain goes away on its own with time, rest and ice – and reducing the activities that brought the pain in the first place. However, if the pain lasts more than 3 months, medical research suggests that it is unlikely to go away on its own.”

“If you’ve had pain more than 3 months and you’ve tried all the home remedies with no relief, you may be a good candidate for image guided tendon treatment,” continued Dr. Elbich.

If you’re frustrated with chronic tendon pain or have tried multiple treatment options, our image-guided tendon treatment – also called percutaneous tenotomy or fasciotomy – could be the treatment you need for rapid pain relief. Unlike other medical or physical therapies, this procedure safely removes the cause of the pain at the source, and unlike many traditional surgical procedures, it is far less invasive, requires far less recovery time – and has a much higher success rate.

The treatment requires only a local anesthetic and a tiny incision, and is virtually pain-free. We use a targeted application of ultrasound energy to break down the damaged tendon tissue while leaving surrounding healthy tissue untouched.

We then use an FDA-cleared device to remove the damaged tendon tissue. You don’t even need stitches. The entire treatment takes about 20 minutes.

You may be asking if image-guided treatment is right for you.

If you answer yes to these questions, it may be time to discuss our image-guided tendon treatment.

  • Have you given up any activities due to tendon pain?
  • Have you been suffering for three months or longer?
  • Have you taken multiple steps to get rid of your pain without lasting success?
  • Are you tired of masking the pain or enduring it rather than treating it at the source?

Call us at (804) 828-2600 to discuss whether image-guided treatment is the right option for you.