Repairing Rotator Cuffs

March 23, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Torn rotator cuffs don't just happen to professional athletes. Every year, 5 million people visit the doctor with the painful shoulder problem. Even after rehab, there's a high risk of re-injury. A new kind of rotator cuff surgery could change that. Dan McMackin and his lab Kayla spend hours practicing for retriever competitions. During a recent training session, McMackin fell and landed on his shoulder. The injury put them both on the sidelines.

"It sounded like a towel ripping," McMackin told Ivanhoe. "That was my rotator cuff. I couldn't move my shoulder at all, not even an inch"

"When the rotator cuff is torn, that ball will tend to ride up out of the socket, and the other shoulder muscles can't raise the arm effectively," Spero Karas, an orthopedic surgeon at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga., told Ivanhoe.

Dr. Karas uses a minimally invasive technique to repair and stabilize injured shoulders. After making a small incision, he secures the tendon to the bone at two sites instead of one.

"What is clearly more advantageous in the dual row construct is these repairs are stronger when you test them," Dr. Karas said. "Biomechanically, it is more difficult to pull the repair off."

Studies show that means better healing and less chance of re-injury. Six months after surgery, McMackin is thrilled. "It's wonderful," he said. "I've got full range of motion. I can throw fetching dummies for my dog."

The surgery got McMackin and Kayla back into the game. They're now making waves at the championship level of dog competitions.

Dr. Karas says in most cases, the double row repair can be done using the minimally invasive approach. Patients are able to begin rehab sooner and more aggressively after surgery. Full recovery takes about a year.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:
Spero Karas, M.D.
(404) 778-7204
www.atlantashoulder.com
www.emoryhealthcare.org/departments/sports/index.html

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