Amy Moore, MD, is a plastic and reconstructive surgeon who specializes in peripheral nerve injury, hand and upper extremity surgery, pediatric nerve and hand surgery, and brachial plexus surgery.
Dr. Moore sees patients at:
St. Louis Children’s Hospital, 1 Children’s Place
Center for Advanced Medicine, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Center, 4921 Parkview Place, 6th floor, Suite G
Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital, Medical Building Three, 1020 N. Mason Road, Suite 110
PLEASE CALL 314-362-7388 FOR AN APPOINTMENT
What happened in the course of schooling to influence you to choose your specialty?
I was a soccer player and tore my ACL (one of the ligaments in the knee), and had knee surgery when I was 14. At that time I thought for sure I was going to be an orthopedic surgeon. But when I was in medical school, I was exposed to different specialties and enjoyed the diversity of plastic surgery. It was at that time I chose plastic surgery as my specialty.
What brought you to Washington University?
During medical school I performed biomedical engineering research. One of the reasons I chose Washington University was for their research acumen and Dr. Susan Mackinnon -- who heads the peripheral nerve research lab. Dr. Mackinnon was an inspiration and I fell in love with nerve regeneration (how nerves grow) and what can be done to help patients, while working in her lab for two years.
It was an easy choice to come here and it has been a great decision.
Which aspect of your practice is most interesting?
I definitely would say the brachial plexus and peripheral nerve components are the most interesting. Patients with brachial plexus injuries have devastating injuries that result in a lifeless limb. The injuries are usually the result of sports, motor vehicle collisions, and motorcycle accidents. Nerve transfers bring a functioning nerve to the muscle that has suffered nerve damage.
It is a two-to-four year recovery process, because nerves grow very slowly – about a millimeter a day, an inch a month, 18 inches a year. I tell my patients that recovery takes time and there are multiple surgeries needed over time, so we are going to be seeing each other for a while!
The ability to restore nerve function for someone is life-changing for the individual and rewarding for me. The fact that we are now able to do these procedures to restore function at unprecedented levels is inspiring. I enjoy helping people get back to doing what they love to do.
Can you talk about the new developments in your field?
I have teamed up with a research group from Walter Reed (National Military Medical Center) and we were recently awarded a Department of Defense grant to investigate neuroma pain and controlling nerve regeneration in amputated limbs. Neuroma is a scar ball that happens after a nerve is cut. We see neuromas in patients who have lost a limb, but as the nerve regenerates, it has no place to go. This nerve regrowth makes wearing a prosthesis very painful.
We are using acellularized nerve allografts to reduce nerve regeneration in order to control the regeneration and thus prevent pain. If we can control the pain, an individual will be able to wear the prosthesis and increase his or her ability to function.
Is this phantom limb pain?
Phantom limb pain is part of the problem, but the neuroma pain is different because it is triggered with touch and pressure. I’m working with researchers in Anesthesiology on mechanisms of pain, because phantom pain is a lot harder to control. I am hopeful our next source of funding will make it possible for us to research painful phenomena with nerve injuries.
Where are you from?
I’m from Roanoke, Virginia. It is in the mountains of Virginia – in the southwest corner. I did my undergraduate and medical school in Virginia, so coming to St. Louis was quite a change, weather-wise. Virginia is much more temperate, St. Louis has the extremes of the seasons – the hot of the hot and the cold of the cold!
My parents still live in Salem, Virginia and my sister lives in Roanoke – I love going back for visits.
Is there a particular award or achievement that is most gratifying?
I would say that I am most proud of my children and most grateful for my husband. I had all three of our children during residency. I’ve always said it is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but the best decision I’ve ever made. I could not have done it without the solid support of my husband. Coming home to their open arms and smiling faces after a long day, makes it all worth it – I am blessed.
From an academic standpoint, I’m most proud of being awarded the Department of Defense grant for over $1,000,000 to study neuroma pain to help our injured warfighters.
We are finding that more military personnel are surviving after being injured because the armor protecting the core of the body is so well-developed -- but is leaving extremities exposed. This means we are seeing amputations at a higher level than ever.
The amputations lead to neuroma pain. If we can provide the orthopedic surgeons in the field with a surgical technique to prevent this pain, more patients would wear their prosthetics.
One of my co-collaborators is Dr. Scott Tintle -- he is working with military patients at Walter Reed Medical Center. It is a great opportunity -- my husband and family has served in the army for generations and it is very important to me to give back to the people who keep us safe.
What is the best advice you’ve received?
The best advice is from my dad who has always been so supportive – he never let me say “I can’t.” He told me, “Just do your best and never give up”. I know that sounds trite, but I combine that advice with “Do it well if you are going to do it”, and that’s how I try to approach everything in life.
If you weren’t a doctor, what would you like to be doing?
I would be coaching soccer. I recovered from my ACL injuries (actually tore my ACL three times) and was still able to play Division 1 soccer at the University of Richmond. Right now I coach my boys’ recreation team. I love the game, the kids and I love being outside. It is a great combination.