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Program helps children with hand, upper extremity issues

Posted by on Monday, October 5, 2020 in Around the Medical Center, Fall 2020 .

Toby Williams, 6, is one of the patients helped by the Hand and Upper Extremity program at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

Brinkley Sandvall, MD, who runs the Hand and Upper Extremity program at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, bonds quickly with her young patients — children who have acquired or congenital hand and upper extremity differences.

“I feel like this is the greatest job — it’s the intersection of what I can do, what I want to do and what I feel compelled to do,” said Sandvall, who is fellowship-trained in pediatric hand and upper surgery and reconstructive microsurgery.

Six-year-old Toby Williams connected quickly with Sandvall before surgery in March to clean out a deep infection that came on rapidly in his left hand and worked its way down to the bone.

Sandvall, assistant professor of Plastic Surgery, came to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in October 2019. She sees both adults and children at VUMC and Children’s Hospital.

The children under her care have a wide range of issues including congenital differences, burns, tumors, neuromuscular disorders, vascular anomalies and traumatic injuries from accidents or playing sports.

She also sees families before children are born, when a congenital difference is noted on an ultrasound.

Sandvall said repairing children’s hands can often be challenging because of continued growth and bone remodeling. If the growth plate is still open, it’s important to anticipate its effect when deciding whether to intervene or to wait.

Sandvall sees children in the hand and upper extremity clinic on the main campus as well as in Murfreesboro. She also sees pediatric patients in the multidisciplinary brachial plexus, vascular anomalies, cleft and craniofacial and spasticity clinics.