Orthopedic surgeon drawn to Nevada County by patients
Special to The Union
Dr. Rich Tortosa: What you need to know
Dr. Rich Tortosa is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon who is fellowship trained in hand and upper extremity surgery. He has serviced patients in the Yuba and Nevada county area for over 30 years.
Northern California Orthopaedic Associates
1061 E. Main St. #201
Grass Valley, CA 95945
For Dr. Rich Tortosa and his wife Beth, relocating to Nevada County had long been a dream: The pine trees, the hiking trails, the arts – all of it appealed to them.
But what really convinced them that this was the place for them was the people.
“For nearly 30 years, I was practicing in Yuba City,” Dr. Tortosa recalls. “I saw patients from all over – Placer County, Yuba County, Sutter County… I found that the people from Nevada County were particularly interesting. They were artisans, musicians, very intelligent and accomplished. It intrigued me.”
Dr. Tortosa found that those same qualities that made the Nevada County residents interesting also made them good patients. In fact, Dr. Tortosa says that by the time he left Yuba City last year, more than 30 percent of his patients were from Nevada County.
“They were always really easy to care for,” he says. “Responsible with their health and motivated to get back to their lifestyle.”
Last June, Dr. Tortosa and his wife made the move and joined the Nevada County lifestyle. In addition to enjoying the people and the trees and the hiking, he’s also enjoying practicing medicine, closer to the population he felt so connected to.
Dr. Tortosa is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in the upper extremities, specifically the shoulder, elbow, wrist and hand. After graduating from the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, he completed his specialty training and fellowship at the University of California – San Francisco.
While living in Yuba City, Dr. Tortosa also served as clinical faculty at UC Davis for 23 years.
In addition to the people, he says what drew him to practice his specialty in Nevada County is the abundance of resources and support.
“There is a real team approach to orthopedics here, from diagnostics to imaging to surgery and rehab,” he explains. “A very important aspect of that team approach is Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital’s commitment to having several hand therapists on staff in their rehabilitation center.”
Hand therapy is a subset of occupational and/or physical therapy, requiring additional training. Dr. Tortosa says for many of his patients, therapy is the only treatment they will need. For others, therapy is a critical part of their recovery following surgery.
Carpal tunnel syndrome – a painful compression of a nerve in the wrist – is commonly treated by hand therapists and is also one of the most common hand conditions Dr. Tortosa sees. In fact, he says carpal tunnel surgery is the most common surgical procedure a hand specialist will perform.
Dr. Tortosa also treats many patients for arthritis; in particular, arthritis involving the thumb.
“Osteoarthritis occurs when the protective cartilage that cushions the bone wears out,” he explains. “As we age, it becomes increasingly common, especially in the hands. In fact, 50 to 60 percent of women over the age of 70 will experience osteoarthritis at the base of their thumb.”
Osteoarthritis of the hands can be treated with splinting, medication, injections or, for advanced cases, reconstructive surgery, a procedure Dr. Tortosa has performed hundreds of times in his career.
While Dr. Tortosa sees a lot of patients who enjoy Nevada County as part of retirement, he also sees patients injured while enjoying the outdoor activities the region offers.
“The interesting thing about being an orthopedist in this area is that you have both ends of the spectrum,” Dr. Tortosa explains. “On one end, you have the retired population who are now facing overuse or age-related conditions, and on the other end you have younger adults who are enjoying the outdoors and may experience trauma due to high risk activities.”
For those traumatic type injuries, Dr. Tortosa says he is more likely to see fractures (especially of the wrist, elbow or shoulder) as well as ligament damage. Often the prescription is the same – surgery and/or rehab.
He says he understands the lure of the riskier outdoor pursuits. “The outdoor lifestyle here is great – I enjoy mountain biking myself!”
Dr. Tortosa says he and his wife have settled into their new community nicely, due in large part to the people who drew them here in the first place.
“We’re enjoying ourselves,” he says. “We’ve made friends, have dinner with the neighbors, gone fly fishing. It’s amazing to have these beautiful pine trees that keep us cool and to have hiking trails 200 feet outside our front door. This community is really blessed.”
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