Avera Medical Minute ASM: Wing Sling helps keep hand elevated above heart

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Inventions exist to solve a problem or make our lives easier.

Avera Health is a member owner of the Innovation Institute which is made up of several other health systems across the United States. The Innovation Institute helps take ideas from these member owners and bring them to life to help improve patients’ lives.

Gaye Granville does occupational therapy twice a week at Avera St. Mary’s in Pierre after she fractured her wrist. Part of her healing was to wear a sling but she found it difficult to keep her hand elevated high enough.

“And with your hand, it just typically always wants to drop down in slings, and with normal activities, and so then your hand starts swelling which creates pain and causes issues,” said Granville.

Granville found a solution.

“I was fortunate to be one of the first to find this new sling that had been devised, or invented, and they call it a ‘Wing Sling’ because it’s for your wing, your arm, or your wrist and hand area,” said Granville.

“The Wing Sling is basically a device to elevate the hand and wrist after an injury or surgery to the hand,” said Dr. Mark Elzik, inventor of Wing Sling.

I connected with Dr. Elzik out of California. He is an orthopedic surgeon at St. Joseph’s Mission Hospital, part of St. Joseph Health, one of the Innovation Institute’s member owners. He says the idea for Wing Sling came after one of his nurses overheard him telling a patient how important it is to keep their hand elevated after surgery or an injury.

“She came up to me and she said, maybe you ought to come up with your own invention so that you don’t have to tell patients this all the time and make it easy on them. And I said, that’s a great idea. So I sat down came up with some drawings and some ideas. And thanks to the Innovation Institute, they helped me to translate those ideas into a real life successful device,” said Dr. Elzik.

“It just held it at a higher angle than what I could keep it with a traditional sling,” said Granville.

Granville says the Wing Sling kept her hand elevated at all times.

“That got kind of exhausting always trying to hold it on my own. It was just like that was hard work or trying to with the other sling holding it up where it needed to be. So it was more relaxing with this one. It just stayed where I needed it,” said Granville.

“It can really help decrease the pain and swelling in the hand and wrist because it positions the hand above the heart and it will improve the venous return, and the pain and swelling that a patient could experience,” said Dr. Elzik.

Granville says, for her, the Wing Sling helped with her healing.

The Wing Sling is an example of health systems benefiting from each other and this will happen more as new products are introduced.

For more information, visit avera.org