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Oradell Respiratory Therapist Back on the Job After Life-changing Shoulder Surgery

November 23, 2021

Clinical Contributors to this story:

As part of his work as a respiratory therapist, Bill McGoey often has to raise his right arm over his shoulder to hang bags of fluid. The 68-year-old from Oradell, New Jersey, had shoulder pain for years, but it progressively worsened to the point where he couldn’t do any action that required lifting his arm above his head. “It was very painful,” he says. “I had to use my left arm for everything.”

Before the coronavirus pandemic shut things down, he met with Frank Alberta, M.D., a shoulder and elbow surgeon at Hackensack University Medical Center, to discuss his progressively worsening shoulder. Dr. Alberta ordered an MRI. “It showed anything that could be wrong with it was wrong,” Bill says.

In Need of an Alternate Solution

When pandemic restrictions eased, Bill saw Dr. Alberta again who ordered additional imaging studies. Determining that Bill’s rotator cuff was beyond repair and his shoulder joint had degenerated, Dr. Alberta suggested reverse total shoulder replacement surgery, also known as reverse total shoulder arthroplasty (TSA).

“When you don’t have a functioning rotator cuff,” says Dr. Alberta, “a regular total shoulder replacement won’t work to restore function, so you need to do something different. That’s where the reverse shoulder surgery comes in.”

The reserve total shoulder replacement surgery allows surgeons to bypass the rotator cuff. “We just work around it,” Dr. Alberta says. Surgeons make an incision that’s about 6 inches long on the front of the shoulder. Ignoring the damaged rotator cuff, a metal and plastic joint is implanted that replaces the other non-functioning parts of the shoulder.

Surgeons try to make the surgery as minimally invasive as possible. The procedure time is about one hour. Recovering patients wear a sling for two to six weeks following the surgery.

Life-changing Surgery

One of the benefits of bypassing the rotator cuff is that recovery begins immediately and rehabilitation is accelerated compared to rotator cuff repair or regular shoulder replacement because you don’t have to wait for the rotator cuff function to return before starting rehab.

After his surgery, Bill was up and walking right away and, to his surprise, was pain-free. “It was like nothing happened,” he says. “It’s like I had no surgery. I had no pain at all.”

He started physical therapy while in the hospital and continued it as an outpatient after he was discharged. “They’re really dedicated to getting you going at Hackensack. I swear by that physical therapy program,” Bill says.

Today, he has full motion of his arm, and for the first time in several years, his shoulder is pain-free. “It feels like a miracle,” he says.

Adds Dr. Alberta: “It’s a life-changing surgery. Patients can go from not being able to reach their face with their hand to, three weeks after surgery, getting their hand over their head. It’s pretty amazing.”

Next Steps & Resources:

Meet our source: Frank Alberta, M.D. To make an appointment with Dr. Alberta or a doctor near you, call 800-822-8905 or visit our website.

Learn more about orthopedic care at Hackensack Meridian Health

How seniors can increase hip strength and flexibility

Tips to get relief from joint pain at home

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.

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