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Jennifer's Story

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DECOMPRESSION SURGERY FOR THORACIC OUTLET SYNDROME

Temple patient, Jennifer

Following a car accident in February 2013, Jennifer had experienced pain in her neck, and left side pain through her shoulder and numbness and tingling in her fingertips. She was hit on the right side of her car at an intersection, and the accident caused injury to her left side. “The weather conditions were not that bad, but the impact was hard,” she recalls. “Since that accident, life hasn’t been the same.”

Jennifer was taken by ambulance to the ER, and was discharged within a few hours. She left the hospital in a great deal of pain and was prescribed pain medication. A few hours later, Jennifer began having problems with her left hand.  “My hand was shaking and it was scary. I thought the tremors would subside within a few days but they never did,” she adds.

An added issue that Jennifer sustained from the collision was the aggravation to her neck from fusion surgery from a prior injury.  “This second accident caused more neck pain,” Jennifer says. 

Jennifer then began a quest to find answers to what was causing the tremors, and also to search for a way to end the pain she endured every day and every night. After more than three years of unanswered questions, frustration and several doctors, Jennifer said she was referred to a S. Ausim Azizi, MD, PhD, Professor and Chair, Department of Neurology at Temple University Hospital.

“Dr. Azizi had all the MRI reports, my medical history, and a detailed overview of my condition and symptoms. When I went to see him he was well-prepared and I knew he was a very good doctor. During the appointment, Dr. Azizi suggested it was not strictly a neurological issue but more than likely there was a vascular component and said I should be seen by Scott R. Golarz, MD, a vascular surgeon with Temple Heart & Vascular Institute. Dr. Azizi suspected my condition could be thoracic outlet syndrome and he said Dr. Golarz is one of few doctors in this area who treats this condition.  He explained it can be an underdiagnosed condition – a lot of times patients are unsuccessfully being treated for other conditions before they make it to Dr. Golarz.  I felt like I had hope,” Jennifer adds.

At her first appointment with Dr. Golarz, Jennifer shares she was impressed by his calm demeanor, conservative approach and his expertise. “Dr. Golarz reviewed all of my medical history and ran tests that were different from other physicians. He asked me to reach, try making other specific movements and to explain my pain and tremoring,” says Jennifer. “None of the other doctors performed these specific tests.” Following the examination, Jennifer said Dr. Golarz confirmed she did indeed have thoracic outlet syndrome: a disorder occurring when blood vessels or nerves in the space between the collarbone and first rib are compressed.

During the appointment, Dr. Golarz suggested a path of treatment:  to begin with physical therapy. “He did mention that surgery was a possibility, but he said we should try a specific, targeted physical therapy method.  He wrote me a prescription and said I should go to a physical therapist closer to my home. I live in Northampton County, 90 minutes from Philadelphia, and Dr. Golarz worked closely with my local physical therapist to perform nerve glides correctly.  After seven sessions, I was still having pain and tremors so I went back to see him.”

I can now enjoy life more with my family.

- Jennifer

Jennifer and Dr. Golarz discussed her next option which was surgery, but decided to try more physical therapy until she was more comfortable with the idea of surgery. When Jennifer returned after attempting more physical therapy, there had been no improvement with her symptoms, so they planned for surgery. “It would require a two-night stay in the hospital and there were risks involved. But, I trusted Dr. Golarz,” Jennifer remembers. “On March 10, 2016, Dr. Golarz performed a thoracic obstruction repair surgery and also a rib-resection. It had been over three years since I had the accident and I was finally going to have some relief.”

Since the surgery, Jennifer, 40, a mother of two and full-time data specialist for a school district, said she has been feeling much better. “The tremors have stopped, and I don’t have the pain and tingling down my arm and hand. I can now enjoy life more with my family,” says Jennifer.

For those with chronic pain and who have been unable to attain a diagnosis, Jennifer suggests a second opinion with Dr. Golarz. “Temple is an excellent medical institution in Philadelphia.  The doctors work together. If it weren’t for Dr. Azizi, I wouldn’t have been referred to Dr. Golarz. This collaborative approach is impressive and helps patients. I am very grateful to Temple and Dr. Golarz and Dr. Azizi.  I hope my story can help others.”