When world-renowned pianist Misha Dichter found he could no longer play a particular Tchaikovsky piece because he couldn’t bring his little finger out to hit the key, he knew he needed to have it addressed. His condition was Dupuytren’s contracture in which the fingers contract toward the palm and cannot be extended. It was correctible only with surgery.
“When I first met Mr. Dichter, he asked me if I had ever performed hand surgery on a professional pianist of his level,” recalls Scott Wolfe, MD. “I told him that ‘I had to be perfectly honest with him and had not, but that’s not to say I haven’t done surgery on many high profile athletes, and I can get the results you’re looking for.’ I think he appreciated my honesty.” Dr. Wolfe performed the surgery for Mr. Dichter’s Dupuytren’s contracture with a spectacular result.
“The risk of loss of a digital nerve or vessel can be catastrophic to anyone but particularly for an elite athlete or virtuoso pianist given the particular demands on their hands,” says Dr. Wolfe.
“If you use your hands as part of your creative life, to see them less than 100 percent, you’ll know the pain as soon as you start to experience it, and you’ll have to deal with it soon and you can get it back,” says Mr. Dichter. “So if there is any suspicion that your hands are not functioning as you would want, then there really is no reason not to pick out the best possible hand surgeon in your area. Seek out two, seek out three…get their opinions. Find the one that you think you feel comfortable with and then totally entrust yourself to that person. And if I stop playing tomorrow, I’ve had an extra year and a half of joy.”
Misha Dichter’s story and recovery are documented in a program recently sponsored by the American Society for Surgery of the Hand. To learn where you can view the program, go to: http://www.assh.org/ and click on "A Pianist Reborn."
Please note: Xiaflex - an injectable treatment option - is now approved by the FDA. HSS hand surgeons Drs. Aaron Daluiski, Robert Hotchkiss and Scott Wolfe are now using Xiaflex to treat Dupuytren's Contracture following its use in a clinical trial at HSS.