Top Doctors: Q&A Keck (Hand Surgery)

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Carleton Keck, M.D.
Specialty: Hand surgery
Practice: Seattle Hand Surgery Group
Education: Indiana University, 1981
Hospital affiliation: Swedish Medical Center
Patient tip: “Occasionally, there are patients who say that they don’t want to know anything about what’s happening. Just fix it. That’s actually a lot harder on them and us; it’s less predictable when you don’t have everyone on the same page.”

What attracted you to your specialty of hand surgery?
In school, I went through general orthopedic training and…the hands were by far the most interesting to me. I think it’s a combination of the function of the hand, the functional demands and what we want and hope to achieve with the use of our hands. There is also the anatomy and the fact that what we do as hand surgeons involves the unification of a lot of different specialties. It’s an amalgam of surgical medicine.

What is the most common condition that you treat?
Carpal tunnel syndrome and other kinds of common tendonitis issues around the wrist. We also see patients for injuries, arthritic concerns and tumors.

Do you think that carpal tunnel syndrome is becoming more common?
Sometimes you hear that carpal tunnel started when the computer keyboard was introduced to humankind. My take is that carpal tunnel has probably been a part of humanity for all of time and we have only recently become more aware of exactly what it is and how to diagnose and treat it.

What do you recommend to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome?
For most people, I encourage them to take a common-sense approach. If there are certain activities that cause symptoms, then you need to modify those activities to ameliorate the pain. However, there is no surefire answer.

Do you foresee any treatment breakthroughs on the horizon?
I think that I’m an optimist. I always think that there will be changes, because medicine doesn’t move forward steadily so much as in leaps and bounds and lurches. I don’t see anything teetering on the horizon, but I wouldn’t be surprised if treatments change during the course of my career.

What is your advice to patients in order for them to foster a good patient/doctor relationship?
It’s good for patients to ask all the questions they want to ask. It’s not good for patients to be timid or hesitant. They should participate in the process, because it’s a team endeavor. We do best when everyone is on the same team.

What was the last thing you did for fun?
I just got back from a week of back-country skiing in British Columbia.

What’s your favorite place to visit in Seattle?
I have to say that my favorite place to go is [Dimitriou’s] Jazz Alley. I like music and enjoying it with family and friends. 

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