Seventy-six-year-old Beverly Sutter had shoulder pain for more than two years. Doctors told her she had acute progressive degenerative arthritis and prescribed her an anti-inflammatory medicine, and later a cortisone shot after the medication did not work. “The entire time the pain was getting worse, and my range of motion was really getting bad,” she says. “It was very difficult to do personal hygiene things and I said, ‘I can’t do this anymore.’”
After a visit to Andrew Willis, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Tri- County Orthopedics and a member of the Department of Orthopedics and Sports Health team at Atlantic Health System, she learned about a procedure that would replace the ball and socket of the shoulder. “A total shoulder replacement is an under-recognized treatment option for arthritis of the shoulder,” says Dr. Willis. “It is one of the fastest growing procedures in replacement surgery in the body and can be an amazing ‘quality of life’ and pain-relieving procedure.”
In a total shoulder replacement procedure, the rounded top end of the arm bone is replaced with an artificial stem that has a rounded metal head. The socket part of the shoulder blade is then replaced with a smooth plastic shell that is held in place with special cement.
“Patients who have this procedure often have immediate pain relief and very predicable improvement in function,” says Dr. Willis. “You have to see it to believe it, because it’s quite profound. Within six months, almost all patients are back to normal doing nearly 85 perfect of what they want to do. As a physician, you feel like you can change someone’s life very quickly.”
The surgery normally takes between one to two hours, and the vast majority of patients go home from the hospital after only one day. Sutter says the first time she saw Dr. Willis he could virtually guarantee her this procedure would profoundly relieve her pain. “When I woke up from the anesthesia, I told my son and daughter I had no pain. I can use my arm now without any pain. I would 100 percent recommend it. I had such a wonderful experience and such a fantastic outcome. It was an answer to a prayer.”