Shoulder Of Fortune

Reverse shoulder replacement surgery restores excellent range of motion.

Since he retired and moved to Punta Gorda several years ago, George Dietrich has spent almost every day fishing in the canal that borders his home. Still, the biggest fish he ever caught was the one he pulled out of a reservoir in the middle of the Arizona desert.

“It was a northern pike that weighed about 14 pounds,” George explains. “I caught it up at Lake Mary, which isn’t far from Sedona. We used to spend about three months a year at a place nearby called Oak Creek Canyon and went fishing every day.”

The “we” that 84-year-old George refers to includes his wife of 66 years, Barbara Sue. George first threw a line in her direction when they were in the eighth grade. It wasn’t until they were juniors in high school that he finally reeled her in.

A love of fishing is one of the many things George and Barbara Sue have in common. Her passion for the pastime is almost as strong as George’s. Good thing, too, because it wasn’t long ago that George was so riddled with shoulder pain that he needed Barbara Sue to cast for him.

“I first started to have problems with my shoulders back in the 1980s, and I think it was mostly a result of the kind of work I did.” says George, who installed machinery used in the mass production of home and office furniture.

“In that line of work, I was moving a lot of large cables and lifting them up in the air to get them installed. I always put a lot of strain on my shoulders. After a while, they start to ache. But with me, it just got worse and worse.”

About eight years ago, after his shoulder pain became acute, George sought medical help from Robert P. Stchur, MD, at Advanced Orthopedic Center. Dr. Stchur (pronounced Sure) recommended replacing both shoulders, but George wasn’t ready.

“I don’t know if I didn’t want to take the time off to have the surgery or I chickened out or what, but I talked him into giving me cortisone shots instead,” George remembers. “But the shots didn’t really do me much good.

“It wasn’t long after I got the shots when I got to a point where, if I picked up a bucket or tried to lift anything with a little weight in it with either the left hand or the right hand, I could actually hear my shoulder grind.

“The pain eventually got so bad that I couldn’t sleep at night because of it. I was lucky if I got one hour of sleep. Just doing something as simple as combing my hair became a chore. Finally, about a year ago, I got up the guts to go see Dr. Stchur again.”

Transfer of Power

An avid fisherman, George has regained full use of his shoulders.

Dr. Stchur again examined George’s shoulders and determined that they were beyond repair due to wear, tear and arthritis. This time, George accepted
Dr. Stchur’s recommendation of reverse total shoulder replacement surgery.

Approved for use in the US in 2003, a reverse total shoulder replacement procedure is considered the best option for patients with damage so great that the arm cannot move away from the body or raise above the head. Mechanics is the reason.

In a healthy shoulder, the muscles and tendons in the rotator cuff work together to power the process of raising and rotating the arm. Through the reverse replacement procedure, that task is transferred to the deltoid through the use of a device that places a metallic ball where the socket was and the socket where the ball was.

“In the normal shoulder, there’s a big ball in a very small socket,” Dr. Stchur educates. “It’s a lot like a golf ball on a tee, which makes it extremely unstable. And it’s a weak rotator on its own because there’s no good fulcrum there. By flipping the construction, you create a better fulcrum, so the arm just pivots right up when the deltoid fires.”

Dr. Stchur recommends a reverse total shoulder replacement for anyone with severe rotator cuff damage. It’s also a good option for chronic dislocations of the shoulder, complex fractures of the joint or for patients who had conventional replacement surgery that failed.

“The implant I use is called the Wright Ascend Flex Shoulder system, and one of its benefits is that it offers more range of motion than previous implants,” Dr. Stchur informs. “It also provides a better cosmetic look because it gives a more rounded shoulder. And, if for any reason you ever had to take it out, it comes out easier than other implants.”

Another benefit of this implant is recovery time. Dr. Stchur says it is “shockingly faster” than standard repair options because the new joint is made of metal and plastic components that stick to the bones and allow for almost immediate normal use of the shoulder.

Speedy Recovery

Dr. Stchur determined that George needed the surgery on both shoulders, so he scheduled the procedures about three months apart. His plan was to ensure George had recovered sufficiently from the first surgery before the second.

That plan worked perfectly.

“After the first operation, I was told to keep my arm in a sling for two weeks,” George recalls. “I managed to keep it there for about a week. After that I didn’t need the sling because I was able to move my arm around like normal again and without any pain.

“The results of that procedure were just amazing… I couldn’t get over what a difference it made.” – George

“The results of that procedure were just amazing. After only two weeks, I was raring to go and do anything: fishing, driving, you name it. I couldn’t get over what a difference it made, so I was very eager and excited to have that second surgery done.”

As planned, George had the replacement on his other shoulder about three months later. The recovery mirrored that of the first. It’s no wonder that George has become such a big fan of Dr. Stchur and his staff.

“Just super people all the way around,” he raves. “You couldn’t ask for better care, including from the people at the hospital, and Dr. Stchur is absolutely fantastic. There’s a reason they call him The Shoulder Guy, and I recommend him to anybody having shoulder problems.”

© FHCN article by Roy Cummings. Photo by Jordan Pysz. mkb
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    • Advanced Orthopedic Center

      Whether you are a professional or collegiate athlete, an active retiree, a "weekend warrior," a high school football star or a hard-working employee anxious to make a difference, the Advanced Orthopedic Center is here to help you feel better a... Read More

    • Robert P. Stchur, MD

      Robert P. Stchur, MD, is a Board-Certified Orthopedic Surgeon. He joined The Advanced Orthopedic Center in 2004. He completed a Sports Medicine fellowship at the Lake Tahoe Sports Medicine Program. He is originally from Michigan and received h... Read More