The patients came to him with a wide range of symptoms, everything from low blood pressure to dental issues paired with non-operative musculoskeletal injuries. Jacques Courseault, MD, sports medicine physician at Tulane University School of Medicine, noticed a pattern. All the symptoms closely resembled the ones he was seeing in patients diagnosed with Hypermobility type Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a group of inherited genetic conditions that affect connective tissue.
Courseault planned to refer those patients to a specialty clinic focused on EDS and discovered there are few in the world. To ensure they had access to care, Courseault started the Tulane Hypermobility Clinic, supported by Tulane School of Medicine and the Department of Orthopedics. Within three hours of launching the clinic, the center’s team of specialists were booked for six months.
“We use a novel technique called ultrasound-guided hydrodissection of the fascia, which helps patients move better, decreases pain and improves overall function and quality of life,” says Courseault. "We work with our Tulane and community partners to address other associated co-morbidities, including cardiac, allergy, neurological and psychiatry-related issues. We also use a similar technique to treat patients and athletes who aren’t hypermobile but have non-operative injuries such as back or neck pain.”
There is no cure for EDS, but the Tulane clinic offers treatment and hope to patients like Elizabeth Boh.
“I had been through 30 years of symptoms and surgeries and not having any idea what was wrong with me,” said Boh. “To have someone understand the disease and be able to treat all the different symptoms it causes really makes a huge difference. I feel a lot better in the year and a half that Dr. Courseault has been helping me. It’s been a life changer.”
Courseault is now in the beginning phases of establishing a Fascia Institute and Treatment Center, which will provide on-demand care for fascial abnormalities common in many people, but are more prevalent in those who are hypermobile. The waitlist for the clinic is now two to three years long, but Dr. Courseault hopes to see patients sooner and expand services by adding amenities: including access to an indoor heated pool, group exercise classes and gravity-eliminated equipment. He also wants to increase the EDS and fascia research and education being done at Tulane, so doctors all over the world will know more about how to treat hypermobile patients.
“I didn’t mean to get into this and never did I think I’d be treating an autosomal dominant genetic disorder,” said Courseault. “But once you see them, you recognize that you can’t ignore that these patients and athletes have a different body type and need to be treated differently.”