For now, the small piece of bone is floating in a container at home. Royals starter Nathan Karns has plans for it, of course. Maybe a necklace, he says. Maybe a keepsake to mark another surgery overcome.
“I’ve got to figure out how to clean it off,” Karns said.
On July 19, a surgeon in Dallas removed a small piece of rib from near Karns’ right shoulder as part of a procedure to address thoracic outlet syndrome, a neurogenic condition caused by the compression of nerves near the neck and shoulder. The removal of the rib — officially known as a first rib resection — is meant to alleviate stress on the nerve and solve discomfort in the arm. The surgery usually results in a strange souvenir for the patient.
“They pull it out, put it in a little container and say ‘Here you go,’ ” Karns said, standing inside the Royals clubhouse on a recent afternoon. “I’m excited to kind of clean it up, put it in a necklace or something, wear it around, so wherever I go, I’ll be a 100 percent skeleton instead of 99 percent.”
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All joking aside, Karns said he felt optimistic about his recovery just two weeks after undergoing the season-ending surgery. Acquired last offseason in a trade for outfielder Jarrod Dyson, Karns last pitched on May 19 in Minnesota before a nagging case of forearm tightness ended his season. The symptoms persisted for months and ultimately resulted in a diagnoses of thoracic outlet syndrome. After undergoing the procedure, he is expected to return for spring training in 2018.
“I’m moving my arm around, no pain, no setbacks,” said Karns, who returned to KC in late July. “Everything feels really, really good. I don’t have any nerve-y symptoms coming out of surgery. We feel like we’re in a great spot.”
Karns became the latest Royals pitcher to undergo surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome. He will now await a long rehab process.
Reliever Luke Hochevar had the surgery last summer before experiencing setbacks during his rehab. He is expected to return next season. Top prospect Kyle Zimmer also underwent the procedure last year. In a more positive case, former Royals pitcher Chris Young had surgery to address the condition four years ago and the procedure extended his career, allowing him to become an important piece of a World Series championship pitching staff in 2015.
“It was a serious procedure leading up to it,” said Karns, whose surgery was performed by Gregory J. Pearl in Dallas. “We found the best doctors that we could to help me out through this. We feel like we’re in great hands and it was successful.”