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Welcome, Dr. Rudolph!

December 3rd, 2019

Karen Rudolph, MD, RPVI, earned her medical degree from the University of Alabama School of Medicine in Birmingham, Alabama. She completed an internship and general surgery residency at the University of Louisville School of Medicine in Louisville, Kentucky. She then completed a fellowship in vascular surgery from the University of Florida Shands Hospital in Gainesville, Florida. 

Dr. Rudolph didn’t plan to become a vascular surgeon – or even a physician – from a young age. She’s always loved math and science, but it was an anatomy course during her senior year of high school that started her thinking about pursuing medicine. With each step, she explored all of the options, eventually ending up in a career that she loves. 

“Anatomy was truly amazing – I thought, ‘who wouldn’t want to know all about this?’,” remembers Dr. Rudolph. “Going into college, medical school was on the table, but my career path wasn’t completely set in my mind. I decided on bioengineering because it seemed to combine the best of both of my interests and gave me more options after graduation.” 

Dr. Rudolph’s brother was also in medical school with the goal of becoming an orthopedic surgeon. After shadowing in surgery and with several of his mentors, she thought that orthopedics might be her specialty. But during surgical rotations, Dr. Rudolph liked general surgery more than she expected and the options for surgical subspecialty fellowships that this path afforded. 

“I didn’t have a lot of experience with vascular surgery until my second month as an intern. My mentor who was a very busy surgeon let me begin sewing and working with him in surgery very early on in the process,” says Dr. Rudolph. “It was so rewarding to use my skills, work with my hands and gain that technical experience. Even after that rotation was over, I kept coming back to those cases and those experiences again and again in my mind. It was then that vascular became my focus.”   

According to Dr. Rudolph, vascular surgery is a specialty that requires a lot of optimism and dedication to successfully help patients through difficult health scenarios. “Vascular disease is a life-long process and establishing a solid doctor-patient relationship is critical,” she says. “Caring for some of the sickest of patients who often need lifesaving surgery – and helping them live a longer and healthier life – has been extremely rewarding.” 

Now that her training is complete, Dr. Rudolph is excited about establishing her practice in Chattanooga and with colleagues at University Surgical Associates who are likeminded in their approach to providing excellent patient care. 

“I was so impressed with caliber of vascular surgeons at USA, who they are as surgeons – and who they are as people. They provide the same level of care that I value and want for my patients,” says Dr. Rudolph. “It was an easy decision to join USA, and I’m ready to work hard and be part of this team that provides exceptional care and positive outcomes that impact people’s lives for the better.”

Dr. Rudolph is board certified through the American Board of Surgery and specializes in vascular and endovascular surgery with a particular interest in aortic aneurysms, carotid disease, peripheral arterial disease (PAD), venous disorders, and more. Click here to learn more about Dr. Rudolph and her surgical expertise. 

Dr. Rudolph Sees patients at USA's Surgical Specialties Building (SSB), Gunbarrel Rd., Hixson, and Winchester offices. Call (423) 267-0466 to make an appointment. 

Ten years ago, Lacey Hood was in a serious accident that would impact her life for years to come.

She was drug by moving car and her leg was run over. Her injuries resulted in serious road rash on her leg below the knee, and her knee was badly damaged. After the initial accident and treatment, Lacey developed cellulitis, a common, but potentially dangerous bacterial skin infection.  

“I was put on all sorts of antibiotics to treat the infection, but I wasn’t seeing any improvement. No matter what they gave me, I kept getting progressively worse. One morning, I woke up with my leg burning like fire and red streaks running up my leg to my thigh,” remembers Lacey. “I went to the Erlanger ER and then on to emergency surgery.” 

After x-rays and other blood tests that determined the infection wasn’t in her bone, surgeons did perform surgery on Lacey’s leg. In effect, her calf muscle was cut open from her knee to her ankle to remove all the infection. She spent 17 days in the hospital to drain the infection and begin the long process of packing her wound over and over. Once she was well enough to leave the hospital, she still had a wound that wouldn’t heal. 

Like most people, Lacey never imagined that she’d be in this situation. Many people who have diabetes suffer from non-healing wounds. But they can also come from traumatic injuries like the one Lacey experienced. She bounced around to several other wound care specialists who tried and failed to help her. The wound persisted, and Lacey felt hopeless that it would never heal, or worse that it would ultimately shorten her life. 

“I was so tired of dealing with this problem that was having a huge impact on my life and health,” says Lacey. “I couldn’t walk or do much of anything.” 

Help for Complicated Health Care Challenges 

To complicate the healing process, Lacey also suffers from systemic lupus, an incurable inflammatory disease that affects every aspect of the body – the joints, skin, blood cells, brain, heart, kidney and lungs. People with this condition experience frequent pain, fatigue, fever and rashes that intermittently flare up and then subside. And because this condition has an effect on her immune system, a non-healing wound is even more difficult to address.  

Things began to turn around for Lacey when her father recommended that she make an appointment at University Surgical Associates. That’s where she met Shana Hilson, MSN, ACNP-BC, CWS, acute care nurse practitioner, who helped Lacey get back on her feet.  As a certified wound specialist (CWS), Shana focuses on treating wounds non-healing wounds associated with diabetes, peripheral artery disease, and traumatic injury like what Lacey had experienced. 

“By the grace of God, I found Shana. She treated my leg for over a year and would not give up,” remembers Lacey. “She tried skin grafts and took skin off my thigh that didn’t’ work, but she never lost hope. She kept working and trying new medications and treatments until my wound was healed,” says Lacey. “This was something that I’d suffered with for 7 years, and thanks to Shana and the team at University Surgical, I’m healed.” 

When asked about the experience and how it impacted her life, Lacey is quick to point out that many other people had tried, failed and gave up hope in the face of this difficult situation. To this day, Shana and Lacey stay in contact with each other, maintaining the friendship that developed through compassionate care and many hours spent together.

“Shana was an advocate for me and a bulldog – she wasn’t going to stop until she was able to help heal my wound. She wasn’t willing to give up or stop trying when so many others did,” says Lacey. “It would be a huge mistake not to let the experts at University Surgical see if they could help you. Shana never gave up, and I’m so grateful for that.”  

Do you or someone you know suffer from a wound that won’t heal? Click here for more information about wound care services at University Surgical Associates. To schedule an appointment with a wound care specialist, call (423) 267-0466. 

Posted by University Surgical  | Category: Wound Care

Saving Legs One Foot at a Time

November 20th, 2019

Diabetic foot ulcers are one of the most common complications of diabetes, but the condition doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. Diabetic foot complications are responsible for more hospitalizations than any other complication from diabetes – and many amputations are preventable. 

“Just like heart disease or stroke, diabetes and associated complications like foot ulcers are urgent problems that many people are facing – and delay in treatment can lead to a person losing a toe, foot or even their leg,” says Karen Rudolph, M.D., vascular surgeon with University Surgical Associates

Diabetic ulcers are open sores on the foot – usually circular in nature – and occur commonly on the toes or heels although they can be present anywhere on the foot. They can develop because of cuts, blisters and sometimes callus formations that turn into ulcers. According to Dr. Rudolph, many people don’t realize how serious even a small injury to the foot can be for a person with diabetes. A tiny scratch can develop into a major ulcer and spreading infection that can ultimately require amputation if not caught early enough. 

“Overall diabetics have approximately a 25% chance of developing a foot ulcer at some point in their lifetime,” says Sachin Phade, M.D., vascular surgeon with University Surgical Associates. “A diabetic foot ulcer is a pivotal event in the life of person with diabetes and a marker for other serious medical problems. Without early and optimal intervention, the sore can rapidly deteriorate leading to amputation.”  

Neuropathy is to Blame 

Many people with diabetes experience neuropathy, a condition that causes numbness or weakness in their extremities. Individuals with neuropathy are at greater risk of developing ulcers and other foot problems. Losing sensation and feeling in the feet and legs makes it very easy for a sore or scrape on the foot to go unnoticed until it’s a major problem. That’s why people with diabetes should examine their feet daily to watch out for any changes. This includes the top and bottom of the feet and in between their toes. 

“I’ve had patients who have walked around with a nail in their shoe, resulting in a terrible injury to their foot – and they didn’t know it had happened,” says Dan Fisher, M.D., vascular surgeon with University Surgical Associates. “Others see a tiny black spot, and because they can’t feel it, don’t think it’s serious enough to seek care. The opposite is true. Any skin breakdown should be examined by a primary care physician or podiatrist immediately.”  

Effective Treatment 

Certified vascular surgeons like those at University Surgical Associates are the professionals best suited to treat the complicated vascular problems associated with diabetes. Without proper circulation, diabetic ulcers will not heal and risk having an amputation. “A full evaluation including an exam and frequently a blood flow test is used to determine if circulation is inadequate in the legs and feet,” says Mark Fugate, M.D., vascular surgeon with University Surgical Associates. “To restore proper circulation, correction can be performed through small catheters and placement of stents that open up blood flow. We also remove plaque buildup in the arteries, and in some cases, a bypass is necessary to save a person’s leg.” 

Early Intervention is Critical 

The majority of amputations are preventable with appropriate care, and that begins with patient education about the importance of controlling blood sugar, eating an appropriate diet, smoking and alcohol cessation, and seeing a physician regularly. Dr. Fugate recommends that people with diabetes see their family physician or podiatrist three to four times a year. Many need corrective foot ware or inserts to keep from rubbing a blister that can lead to more serious problems. 

“Any inflammation or swelling on any part of the foot, any sign of infection like redness or drainage, any unexplained pain or black areas on any part of the foot are reasons you should see a provider as soon as possible,” he says. “Over the years I’ve seen many diabetic foot problems, and too many patients have needless amputations. With proper intervention, we can effectively treat these conditions and help people live longer and with a better quality of life.”   

University Surgical Associates provides advanced care for people with diabetic wounds and the other vascular issues associated with diabetes. To schedule an evaluation, call (423) 267-0466.