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Dr. James Andrews temporarily suspends Tommy John surgeries amid pandemic

Famed orthopedist Dr. James Andrews has made the decision to temporarily suspend performing Tommy John elbow surgeries at his medical facility in Gulf Breeze, Florida, a spokesperson said.

“We are not performing any non-urgent or non-emergent procedures, including Tommy John surgery, in compliance with the governor’s executive order,” the spokesperson for the Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine told the Boston Globe. “We are adhering to these restrictions and all such cases are suspended at this time.”

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order on March 20 prohibiting “any medically unnecessary, non-urgent or non-emergency procedure or surgery which, if delayed, does not place a patient’s immediate health, safety or wellbeing at risk, or will, if delayed, not contribute to the worsening of a serious or life-threatening medical condition.”

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Boston Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale had Tommy John surgery performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles on Monday. New York Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard underwent the procedure, performed by Dr. David Altchek, last Thursday in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Dr. ElAttrache confirmed Syndergaard had an acutely torn UCL and recommended his surgery as essential.

“I know that I’m going to get criticized for taking care of these kinds of guys, but it’s essential to their livelihoods,” ElAttrache told the San Francisco Chronicle on March 24. “If you have somebody’s career at stake and they lose two seasons instead of one, I would say that is not a nonessential or unimportant elective procedure. … We have to have some criteria. We don’t want it to be arbitrary. We want the public to trust what we’re doing.

“If we didn’t have some criteria for selecting patients, we easily could be accused of bias for non-medical reasons and lose the public trust.”

The surgery for Syndergaard took place at the Hospital for Special Surgery in West Palm Beach, and Sale’s procedure was performed at the Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles. Both are classified as specialized orthopedic facilities and not public hospitals.

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