Shoulder pain is extremely common and a frequent reason people visit doctors’ offices each year. Rotator cuff tears and arthritis are often common reasons for shoulder pain. Arthritis can develop due to genetics, after an injury, or as a function of a long-standing rotator cuff tear. Many factors can cause the need for shoulder replacement surgery, with osteoarthritis being the number one reason. Those with past shoulder injuries, multiple dislocations and other forms of arthritis are also at higher risk for needing a total shoulder replacement. Fortunately, a few innovations in shoulder surgery offer patients more options.
If nonsurgical treatments for arthritis like injections, medication and physical therapy are no longer effective for relieving pain, you may be a candidate for a shoulder replacement. There are two types of shoulder replacements: an anatomic total shoulder arthroplasty or a reverse total shoulder arthroplasty. A relatively new operation, reverse total shoulder arthroplasty, is designed to help patients with irreparably damaged rotator cuffs or significant erosion of the bones due to arthritis. By reversing the original anatomy of the shoulder, we take advantage of other muscles to replace the function of the rotator cuff in lifting the arm.
New software has allowed surgeons to plan for surgeries and virtually trial specific implants using images of each patient’s anatomy. This allows the surgeon to virtually run through the surgery before ever setting foot in the operating room. Using the software, surgeons can identify the perfect fit for each individual patient. Additionally, for very complex cases, they are able to use this software to 3D print custom guides for some patients with unique anatomy to help ensure that the surgery goes as planned.
Dax Varkey, MD, is an orthopedic surgeon in Greensboro and a member of The Cone Health Medical and Dental Staff. Varkey received his bachelor’s degree in biology, his master’s degree in public health and his Doctor of Medicine from University of North Carolina (UNC) School of Medicine. He completed an orthopedic surgery residency at UNC, followed by a sports medicine, shoulder and elbow surgery fellowship at OrthoCarolina in Charlotte.