By Srianthi Perera, GSN Contributor
Chandler retiree Carolyn Craig was told that her impending total shoulder replacement surgery was “no walk in the park.”
She was mentally prepared for many months of difficult recovery and to endure considerable pain because the alternative was going on with debilitating arthritic pain.
After her surgery last September, Craig took pain pills for exactly two days.
“It was a walk in the park, almost,” she said. “It was just a big surprise, and I went, of course, for therapy afterwards, and the therapy went well, and my range of motion came back very quickly. It was just a positive thing for me all the way around.”
Craig’s surgery to repair the effects of arthritis on her right shoulder was performed by Dr. William Paterson of OrthoArizona, Gilbert, at Mercy Gilbert Medical Center. Shoulders are his specialty, and Paterson has repaired a good 300 during his seven-year career in the Southeast Valley.
In Craig’s case, Paterson used an implant called the SIMPLICITI shoulder system, devised by Wright, a Memphis, Tennessee-based company that specializes in developing anatomical implants. As the name implies, it simplifies the process of performing a total shoulder replacement by eliminating steps, according to the surgeon.
Craig was Paterson’s first patient who received the implant. She credits it for her speedy recovery and ability to regain general mobility of the arm.
Compared to other shoulder implants, the SIMPLICITI is short, no more than two inches long.
“He said he didn’t know until he got to my shoulder whether I would be a candidate for it or not. He said my bone density was good and everything looked good, so he used it,” Craig said.
Paterson has since used the implant on many other patients, with equally positive results.
“I felt really blessed that I had him and he was willing to try this new implant. I felt like this whole thing was meant to be, and it was very successful,” Craig said.
Shoulder surgery replaces the ball of the shoulder with a metal ball attached to a stem that sits inside the humerus bone, and the socket with a plastic socket. During surgery, the painful arthritic portions of the bone are removed, Paterson said, which include bone spurs and the worn-out joint surfaces.
The joint is then replaced with metal and plastic parts that best match the original size and shape of the bones.
In layman’s terms, Paterson said, it “reconstructs the ball and socket side of shoulder to change a rough situation into a smooth one so that the bearing surface is no longer bone-on-bone.”
Craig, who’s afflicted with arthritis through most of her body, previously had both her knees replaced.
“That’s what developed in my shoulder,” she said. “The pain got so bad I could barely use my left arm, and I couldn’t lift things, I couldn’t even reach up on a shelf for anything.
“It was really bad, and when they actually got in for the surgery, they found that there were bone chips in there that were floating around. That’s why some times were even more painful than others,” she added. “When the joint gets to where it’s so worn that the bones kind rub on each other, the chipping happens.”
Modeled after total hip replacement surgery, which is the most successful operation in orthopedics, according to the surgeon, total shoulder replacement was first performed in the United States in the 1950s.
“My practice is almost exclusively patients with various shoulder problems,” he said. “The condition that I most commonly treat is a rotator cuff tear.”
To perform the shoulder replacement surgery, part of the rotator cuff is detached and then repaired.
To make sure that it heals, the patient must use a sling for four weeks after surgery. Typically, in six weeks, patients can raise the arm to shoulder level, and in 12 weeks, the arm usually functions much better than it did prior to surgery and can continue to improve over the course of about one year.
Since the 1950s, the technology has improved, allowing the replacement parts to provide better return of function and last much longer — about 15 to 20 years.
Compared to other total shoulder replacements, the SIMPLICITI system has two advantages, the surgeon said: The stem portion of the replacement is much smaller, which preserves more of the patient’s own bone and may reduce the pain experienced after surgery, and the design allows the surgeon to better replicate the patient’s original anatomy.
This allows for more normal mobility and function after surgery.
Originally from Chicagoland, Paterson did his five-year orthopedic surgery residency in Memphis and a year’s fellowship in shoulder surgery. He trained under two surgeons considered the world’s leading shoulder experts, Wayne “Buz” Burkhead and Sumant “Butch” Krishnan, both of Dallas.
He practices in the Southeast Valley at Arizona Spine and Joint Surgery and Banner Baywood, in addition to Mercy Gilbert.
Since her successful surgery, Craig has appointed herself Paterson’s “marketing specialist.”
“Oh, I’ve got a doctor for you,” she tells anyone with a bad shoulder. “It depends on the person, whether or not they can use the implant or not, but it’s certainly worth knowing that it’s out there,” she said.
Meanwhile, she plays bocce ball with her “perfect” shoulder, which promises to perform for a good 20 years.
“There are absolutely no restrictions,” she said. “I can do anything.”