Dr. Colin Fennell

RiverView Health has at least one board certified, fellowship trained specialist for every joint in the human body – shoulder, elbow, wrist, hand, hip, knee and ankle.

Dr. Colin Fennell exudes excitement when talking about the full house of highly specialized providers offering musculoskeletal care at RiverView’s Specialty Clinic in Crookston. He is RiverView’s senior orthopaedic surgeon having been with RiverView for 13 years. He is also a member of the RiverView Health Board of Directors, and was instrumental in bringing together the top-notch experts.

“When you look at this group of providers as a whole, this group can care for the entire musculoskeletal human body,’’ he stated. “That’s amazing in a community of this size. We have experts functioning at their highest levels of activity, with at least 10 years of experience – some with 25 years - and with extensive fellowship training. It’s amazing – this ‘thing’ that we’ve created.’’

In addition to five highly-skilled orthopaedic surgeons, the Specialty Clinic also boasts two top spine surgeons, podiatry services, a bone health clinic, chronic pain management and an exceptional support staff. If you add it all together you have what Dr. Fennell calls “this little bubble; all taking place in small-town Crookston, Minnesota’’.

That “bubble’’ is a specialty practice with low readmission and complication rates even though the skilled providers at RiverView take on highly complicated cases; a practice with innovative specialists who have created their own surgical techniques that take a fraction of the time to complete in surgery and, more importantly, allow for shorter recovery times – many patients up and moving again in days as opposed to weeks with other techniques.

In his own Practice

Dr. Fennell is a principal part of the talented team. He is an upper extremity specialist focused on the shoulder, elbow, wrist and hand. He has been practicing for 25 years. In his full-time RiverView schedule seeing patients in both Crookston and East Grand Forks, about 60 percent of his caseload is in relation to shoulder issues, while hand-related problems account for about 30 percent of his time.

Shoulder pain may be the result of abnormalities and changes in the joint surfaces as a result of arthritis or fractures. Total shoulder joint replacement can provide pain relief and increased mobility for those who have not experienced relief through non-operative treatment. The primary goal of total shoulder joint replacement surgery is to alleviate pain with secondary goals of improving motion, strength and function.

While the number of shoulder surgeries he’s done so far this year has doubled that of last year, Dr. Fennell has actually created less surgical work for himself with groundbreaking practices he has initiated at RiverView.

He is in his eighth year of offering a Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) procedure for those dealing with elbow tendonitis, commonly referred to as tennis elbow. The approach was introduced by a physician at Stanford University in February 2007. After Dr. Fennell listened to the first lecture, he contacted the physician to learn more. A month later he was conducting the procedure and is one of only two physicians in the area providing the service.

The treatment uses the healing qualities of a patient’s own blood. Blood is drawn from the patient, and sent to RiverView’s Lab for a 15-minute process that separates out the portion of blood that is rich in healing platelets. Then that platelet-rich blood is injected back into the injured area. Dr. Fennell refers to it as “force feeding the healing factor’’. According to Dr. Fennell, tendons and cartilage tend to heal poorly because there is poor blood supply to those areas so the body has a hard time healing damage there. The PRP injection circumvents the blood supply issue and inserting the blood directly into the injured area promotes healing.

“Tennis elbow was the bane of my practice,’’ he stated with a smile. “Three people out of ten would still have issues after surgery for no known reason. But PRP has a success rate of 95 percent. It’s simple, safe and totally effective. It’s magical.’’

For patients with Dupuytren’s contracture, a progressive hand condition that affects how much you can move or straighten your fingers, Dr. Fennell was one of the first in the region to replace two hour surgeries with five minute in-office injections of medication to treat the problem. Xiaflex is the first and only FDA-approved nonsurgical treatment option to treat the abnormal buildup of collagen often referred to as a “Viking disease’’ because it often occurs in older men of Northern European descent.

Patients First

According to Dr. Fennell, PRP and Xiaflex have transformed his practice.

“If I can find a solution that gives a patient with a functional problem a fix without having surgery, that is always my first choice and it should be for any surgeon.’’

Dr. Fennell said someone once told him to “identify what you do and do it well’.’ It’s obvious he’s taken those words to heart in his own practice and with his team approach in the Specialty Clinic.

“We’ve created this environment that has really evolved, especially in the past two years,’’ he stated. “It’s really taken off and now we have the topend surgeons all together under this one roof. Our services right here in Crookston are equal to or better than any out there that I’ve seen.’’