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February 23, 2011

Shoulder Function After Surgery

There is an interesting study that came out of Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit that used new technology to compare the shoulders of 22 patients.  These patients had arthroscopic surgical repair of tendons and rotator cuff tears in one shoulder, and the study compared the injured shoulder to the other, non-injured shoulder.  Interestingy, they found that long-term shoulder function, in particular shoulder strength and joint stability, are not fully restored after surgical repair, and there are significant differences when compared to the opposite shoulder, and that the differences persist over time. 

This is interesting.  Orthopedic surgeons will frequently cite how their patient satisfaction after a rotator cuff repair is high, in spite of the prolonged six-month recovery from the surgery.  Of course this is in contrast to the recent research that shows these shoulders appear to be permanently not as strong, and in general not as functional, as they were at baseline.  This needs to be looked at, particularly in comparison to some of the research suggesting that physical therapy in an organized, specific fashion or daily therapy at home with something such as the RotatoReliever, may be just as good if not better than long-term outcomes from surgery. 

I think that given the amount of pain, suffering, and generally disabling aspect of this surgery for a period of time, typically about four to six months, that we need to have high standards on what the results of the surgery are.  Shoulder pain remains common in 40 million Americans suffering from it.  Many of these people have rotator cuff tears, and we need to do further research to find out how we can best serve them.

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