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World first for Witham woman who has life-changing wrist op

07 January 2016

Health Care

A woman from Witham is the first in the world to have a pioneering wrist operation at Southend University Hospital by world renowned orthopaedic surgeon Greg Packer.

Back in 2010 Ingrid Leatherdale, 50, broke her right wrist and has since had no movement in it at all. Normally this would have meant an operation to fuse it meaning she would never have any movement in it ever again. But thanks to her world first operation at Southend Hospital, which took place just before Christmas, normal movement should be possible again in the near future.

The injury has meant Ingrid learning to write and mark with her left hand in her job as a maths teacher in Braintree.

Ingrid said: "I've been able to move my fingers fine but couldn't move my wrist at all. I'm a keen motorcyclist but it's meant I've not been able to open the throttle so I can't ride. I'm also a musician so I can't play the French horn or trombone at the moment.

"It's been life-affecting in lots of everyday ways such as really having to think and compensate before getting dressed, opening something simple like a door or not being able to do things like ironing, although I'm not looking forward to going back to that! But seriously, you have to just adjust so much all the time."

Surgeon Mr Packer, who is also clinical director for musculo-skeletal services at the hospital, acknowledged how much impact wrist damage can have, he said: "We have an amazing amount of wrist movement as humans and a special form of wrist movement known as the 'dart throwers' motion, which this kind of operation is designed to replace. The operation was a partial wrist replacement, and currently this is the only specifically designed partial replacement in the world.

"This is the first of the new generation of operations and is totally unique and different to those that have come before, so although there have been 20 using the whole prosthesis, this is the very first one in the world using a specifically designed half. This operation will make a real difference to other patients like Mrs Leatherdale."

The original idea for a partial replacement prosthesis came from professor Wolfe and the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, the oldest orthopaedic hospital in the United States which is considered one of the top hospitals in the world for joint replacement. Mr Packer was approached by the professor as he has extensive wrist replacement experience.

Mr Packer said: "Younger people do need total replacement of their wrists in the end, so we do this operation now and then when the other section of actual wrist is worn out in perhaps the next 15 years or so meaning we'll be able to easily convert it into a total replacement. That's the big difference and makes a massive life difference to the patient, the operation also takes less time, around 45 minutes instead of well over an hour."

It's now hoped that this groundbreaking operation will pave the way for further innovation in this area, which Southend University Hospital is playing a vital role in.This will help benefit both local patients and those around the world.