Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Case Study: Hard Labor Leads to Rotator Cuff Tear

A 50 year old male laborer came to our office following an injury at work. The patient felt a sudden pain while pulling a heavy object on wheels when the injury occurred.  We suspected a rotator cuff tear based on the symptoms he described. The rotator cuff is comprised of 4 muscles and keeps the shoulder stable and in place.

The patient’s symptoms included:
-          Great difficulty raising his arm overhead.
-          Significant pain and weakness in the shoulder.
-          Intense pain at night that caused difficulty sleeping.
-          Inability to raise arm above shoulder level.

Before Surgery
Before Surgery
Before Surgery
After a thorough examination, we sent the patient for an MRI to confirm and determine the severity of the injury.  An MRI of his shoulder revealed a very large full thickness tear involving 2 out of the 4 rotator cuff tendons. Based on these findings, we recommended the patient undergo arthroscopic surgical repair and the patient agreed.

The patient underwent a shoulder arthroscopy; which included removal of a bone spur above the tear and a rotator cuff repair. In our practice, we strive to restore the natural anatomy of the body in any surgical procedure. In this case, we used bio-absorbable anchors and sutures to re-attach the torn tendons to the anatomically correct location of the bone. Anatomic re-attachment helps promote healing and reduces the risk of subsequent injuries.

Following surgery, the patient was placed in a sling for 4 weeks and began physical therapy 3 weeks after surgery. We have seen great success in keeping the shoulder protected for 3-4 weeks following a rotator cuff repair. This allows the shoulder to heal and reduces the risk of repeat tears, shoulder weakness and decreased range of motion. In a recent study at the Center for Special Surgery, this was protocol confirmed as the preferred option to beginning physical therapy sooner. (Click to view full article from the Center for Special Surgery)
After Surgery
After Surgery
After Surgery
Approximately three months post-surgery, the patient was able to lift his arm above his head without difficulty or pain and was able to return to light work duty. Five months post-op, the patient returned to work full duty without restrictions; including heavy lifting and repetitive overhead activities. After completing 5 months of on-going physical therapy, the patient continued to perform strength training exercises on the rotator cuff at home and tells us he is completely healed. He has his full strength back and is very pleased with the outcome of the procedure.

It is important to note that upon the conclusion of formal physical therapy, continued strength training at home is necessary to ensure a full recovery. Most rotator cuff repairs require a full year of healing before full strength returns. By being diligent and continuing a home-based strength training routine, a patient can increase his/her chances for a full recovery without any lingering symptoms. (Click here for some simple strength training exercises for the rotator cuff)

Our office specializes in injuries of the shoulders and knee. We treat each patient as an individual and carefully evaluate the best treatment plan in each case. If you would like to make an appointment, please call 973-300-1553 or visit www.advocareorthosportsmed.com to learn more.