A breakthrough procedure that can repair shoulder injuries once thought irreparable is now being performed at White Plains Hospital. One of the few surgeons in the region who currently performs the procedure—Dr. Michael A. Schwartz, MD, of White Plains Hospital Physicians Associates-Orthopedic Specialists—notes that the treatment is a far cry from the more invasive and less effective surgeries of the past.
The procedure is called Superior Capsular Reconstruction and, according to Schwartz, it utilizes an inventive approach to cure a common injury. “In the absence of a repairable rotator cuff, this procedure uses a dermal patch to substitute for an intact rotator cuff,” says Schwartz. “The procedure is done all arthroscopically. The ends of the patch are fixed to the bones of the shoulder joint, with bioabsorbable suture anchors, similar to what we use in routine rotator cuff surgeries.”
This all adds up to a minimally invasive procedure far beyond the more taxing procedures of the past. “Prior to the availability of this procedure, patients would have to either forgo treatment and live with the symptoms or undergo an invasive procedure that replaces the entire joint, which is called a reverse total shoulder replacement,” says Schwartz. “The problem is the longevity of the implant and loss of bone stock associated with putting in the implant. Also, there are not many options for a failed procedure and revision surgery for failed reverse total shoulders can be complicated.”
Due to the non-invasive nature of the new procedure, the healing time is accordingly relatively brief and less complex, with an initial healing phase of approximately four to six weeks and a total rehabilitation time of four to six months.
Above all, Schwartz notes the procedure’s primary impetus centers on reducing pain overall and speeding healing of the joint. “Patients with this particular condition usually have chronic shoulder pain, which often does not respond to standard non-operative options,” explains Schwartz. “In addition, the previously available operative options are limited, and offer lower success rates and higher complication rates; whereas this new procedure focuses on reconstructing the capsule, which can give patients much improved function and decreased pain.”