Joint Preservation Blog

August 28, 2008

Shoulder Surgery Recovery

As a doctor, because we use our upper extremities for everything, shoulder surgery recovery can be very difficult. Have you seen someone walking around in a sling with a big blue pillow between their arm and chest? Shoulder joint replacement surgery is notorious for a long, painful recovery. Rotator cuff surgery is also a very long and tough recovery, mostly because the stitches placed into the tendon must be kept immobile while the tear heals. So why all this suffering? Is there a better way? This post will explore if shoulder surgery recover from a rotator cuff tear can be shortened and if there is an alternative to shoulder joint replacement surgery.

The rotator cuff is simply a group of muscles that help to stabilize the shoulder. Think of them as the muscles that help keep the ball of the shoulder in it’s shallow joint while allowing for maximum alignment and mobility. When one of these muscles and/or their tendons (like the supraspinatus) gets torn, it’s a big problem. Patients often can’t lift their arm and have pain with any movement. This can be diagnosed on an MRI. If the tear is small, then sometimes it’ll heal on it’s own with therapy. However, many partial and complete tears fail to heal. When this happens, the traditional treatment is simply sewing up the tear and immobilizing the area. This is where the recovery problems begin. Immobilizing the shoulder is tough. Hence the crazy blue pillow shown below:

Typical shoulder surgery recovery.

Typical shoulder surgery recovery.

What happens when you immobilize the muscle for this long? Regrettably, it often causes to atrophy. This means the muscle starts to die off and this atrophy is associated with a poor outcome. How can you get around this atrophy? How about skipping the immobilization? Can you do this? Yes, the Regenexx procedure allows patients with partial rotator cuff tears to shorten their shoulder surgery recovery. Why, because it starts by skipping the surgery step. In this breakthrough procedure, your adult stem cells are injected into the rotator cuff tear under fluoroscopy (real time x-ray). Less trauma to fix the tear means less recovery. In addition, unlike simply sewing the tear and hoping for the best, the joint preservation team at The Center for Regenerative Medicine at the Centeno-Schultz Clinic places repair cells in the tear.

Shoulder Surgery Recovery

Shoulder Surgery Recovery

Check out the MRI pics above. Stem cells placed into the tear helped the tear heal without surgery. So if you want to avoid a lengthy recover with a crazy blue pillow, trade the surgery for a needle!

1 Comment »

  1. Has anyone had the HAGL procedure done? HAGL stands for humeral avulsion glenohumeral ligament. My ortho. Doc wants to do an open repair but i’m freaked out about potential axillary nerve damage.

    Comment by onearmpaperhanger — February 13, 2010 @ 12:40 am

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