Eskenazi Health Offers Groundbreaking Procedures That Relieve Nerve Pain

The Amputee Coalition of America estimates that there are 185,000 new lower extremity amputations each year just within the United States and an estimated population of 2 million American amputees. It is projected that the amputee population will more than double by the year 2050 to 3.6 million.

Joshua Adkinson, M.D., a plastic surgeon with Eskenazi Health, says some amputee patients have severe phantom limb or neuroma pain. These symptoms, especially in the lower extremities, can make wearing and operating a prosthetic nearly unbearable.

In order to help those individuals with their extreme pain, Dr. Adkinson has adopted trailblazing surgical techniques that dramatically lessen the pain severity of damaged nerve endings after amputation.

One of the patients Dr. Adkinson has helped considerably is lifelong Indianapolis resident Ronald Vlahos, purchased at auction a beautiful motorcycle his departed brother-in-law cherished featuring custom chrome with an exquisite paint scheme. He was proud to keep that treasured two-wheeler in the family and was thrilled to ride it whenever he could.

A graduate of Northwest High School who coaches high school wrestling, Vlahos is active with the Indiana State Wrestling Association and loves fishing, Vlahos on April 25, 2021, was riding his motorbike home after watching a NASCAR race on television with a friend in Lafayette, Ind., when his life suddenly and horrifically changed forever shortly after returning to Indianapolis.

“A car pulled over across a set of double lines and came across (near the corner of 62nd and Terrytown Parkway) and pulled in front of me while I was on my motorcycle after a light had just turned green, and we were moving forward,” Vlahos said. “He pulled in front of me and I hit the brakes and pulled to the right and struck the quarter panel on his car and it flipped me and threw me down the road. I don’t know if he ran over my leg or not.”

Vlahos said the accident caused him to lose a lot of blood and he was grateful that a nurse happened to be on the scene and helped him as best she could after the accident. The end result of the incident for Vlahos was a broken hip and a right leg that was shattered and infected to the extent that it had to be amputated just above the knee.

“Afterwards, my leg hurt so bad it was unbelievable with the nerves and an infection from the stitching,” he said. “SRT Prosthetics and Orthotics was working with me to get fitted for a prosthetic leg and I told them about the constant severe pain I was experiencing, and thankfully they suggested I meet with Dr. Adkinson to see what he could do to help me.”

Vlahos and Dr. Adkinson first met in October 2021, and a surgical procedure was executed the following February.

“Dr. Adkinson performed a procedure on my leg and afterwards it was the greatest feeling with what he did with the nerves and everything,” Vlahos said. “I went in there with so much pain and he turned it around. From the first time I met with Dr. Adkinson, he was honest and truthful, and he made it right, and to have the extreme pain I was feeling changed to what I have now is a blessing, man! It truly was unbelievable, and it was like I finally got a break. This surgery changed everything.”

Since the surgery on his leg, Vlahos is taking less than 25% of the medications he was ingesting prior to the procedure for pain, infection, etc. But along with all of the good news, Vlahos still has some major hurdles to clear before his life becomes closer to whole again, including skirmishes with insurance companies and a period of time when he was waiting for the delivery of a new socket to be attached to his leg to hold a prosthetic after the original socket he received was the wrong fit.

Vlahos received the new socket last year in late December and he’s very happy with how it fits, and he’s getting increasingly more comfortable with it. He’s able to stand and get around with the use of a walker, and is looking forward to beginning what he calls a 10-day physical therapy “boot camp” that he believes will help propel him to getting back to living a more normal life.

His goal is being able to return to the job he loves driving a UPS semi-truck long distances using his new right leg to press the accelerator and use the brakes. Once Vlahos is ready to drive again, he’ll have to go to Commercial Driver’s License training to once again be certified to drive.

“With the traditional ways that we managed nerve pain in the past, at best you were looking at 60-80 percent relief of symptoms, and people were satisfied with that,” Dr. Adkinson said. “When you tell them now that there’s this fancy new technique that can make it near 100 percent effective, everybody is a little skeptical about that. I was originally a little bit skeptical, but my colleagues when I was at Northwestern University and at the Rehabilitation Institute in Chicago showed me the data and it was very simple.”

Those in his corner cheering the 59-year-old on during his recovery include his new wife, who was his best friend in high school, his son, who went to school and wrestled at Purdue University and is now in dentistry school, and his beloved granddaughter.

“Every day the nerves are doing better and I will walk normally again, and it’s going to be the stepping stone back to my life, and there’s no doubt in my mind it’ll happen,” Vlahos said. “Dr. Adkinson changed my life around and I’ll always be grateful to him. He’s the best and I would recommend him to anyone.”

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