Our Hand Center provides comprehensive care for Kentuckians with the most complex injuries
The expert team at the UK HealthCare Hand Center is dedicated to managing and treating hand and upper extremity conditions. The team includes Dr. Chase Kluemper, a Lexington native and orthopaedic surgeon who specializes in repairs to the elbow, wrist and hand.
Dr. Kluemper spoke with us recently about the treatment of traumatic hand injuries and other services offered by the Hand Center, which opened in 2021 at UK HeathCare – Turfland.
What is the UK HealthCare Hand Center?
It’s a pretty unique place for hand care. We bring together orthopaedic surgeons and plastic surgeons who have done hand fellowships after their residency. They have similar views on things but a little bit different skill sets.
We also have an expert hand therapy department. Overall, we have about 15 exam rooms and six hand therapists who play an integral role in caring for our patients. We have procedure rooms where we do small procedures in addition to X-ray and ultrasound imaging suites.
What sets UK HealthCare apart in the treatment of traumatic injuries?
To best understand that question, you have to understand the state of Kentucky. UK HealthCare, per capita, is one of the highest transfer hospitals in the country. Eastern Kentucky, Southern Kentucky and the Bluegrass Region — they all come to the University of Kentucky. It’s a healthcare desert, to some degree, especially when it comes to specialty care and acute surgical care. All of that funnels to UK.
We’re the end of the line. Everything that comes, we have to be able to care for it. That starts with our EMT and first-response providers. They have to know who to transfer and how to get them here quickly. That includes the nursing staff, ER physicians and residents. The system in place at UK allows patients to be identified at outlying hospitals and be in our operating room within a few hours, and in many cases faster than that.
When a significant trauma happens, that whole system is engaged. And that type of system only exists in two places in Kentucky.
How does the Hand Center fit into that system?
You have to have specialists who are ready to come in, and the orthopaedic and plastic surgeons at the Hand Center check that box when the trauma experienced involves a patient’s upper extremities.
In cases like replantation surgery – when, say, a finger or hand is being reattached – those patients have to stay in the hospital after surgery. You have to have additional experts there to respond to their unique needs. They might stay with us for a few days, and that post-operative course of treatment has to be overseen by intensive care units that understand when and how to engage our specialists.
It’s necessary to have a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach to treat the hardest cases. There are plenty of good hand surgeons in the community who can do some of the stuff we do. But when you don’t see the volume of patients UK does, and when you don’t have the system in place to care for the worst of the worst, and you’re not set up to come in during the middle of the night to operate? Our outpatient Hand Center and the Level I Trauma Center are mutually dependent, and our patients are more likely to have positive outcomes because of that cohesion.