NorthShore’s online source for timely health and wellness news, inspiring patient stories and tips to lead a healthy life.
Not once, but twice, Paula Bass faced the crippling pain of a serious shoulder injury. The 58-year-old wife and mother of two initially tore the rotator cuff in her left shoulder after a nasty fall down the stairs in her Zion home. This group of muscles and tendons stabilize the shoulder joint, supporting one’s ability to lift and rotate their arms.
Double Trouble After surgery and rehab, Bass suffered a re-tear within the same shoulder joint. It left her with constant pain and arm weakness preventing her from doing even the most common household chores. Most importantly, it impacted her ability to enjoy activities with her family, including her two sons.
“The injury really restricted my work around the house and just being able to keep up with my boys,” Bass said. Although her husband and sons lovingly rose to the occasion to help, she was anxious to return to her active routine.
Eager to reclaim her range of motion and get rid of the pain, Bass turned to NorthShore Orthopaedic Institute and Surgeon Diego Villacis, MD, who specializes in a shoulder replacement technique known as reverse shoulder arthroplasty. The procedure is a welcome alternative for patients like Bass with an irreparable rotator cuff tear. Dr. Villacis, who holds an academic title at the Pritzker School of Medicine, performed the sophisticated surgery on Bass this past January.
Revolutionary Procedure In a reverse shoulder arthroplasty, the joint mechanics of the arm and shoulder are switched. When surgeons replace the shoulder joint, they put the ball of the shoulder joint where the socket should be and the socket where the ball should be, Dr. Villacis explained.
“As a result, the deltoid muscle at the top of the shoulder does all the work, rather than the rotator cuff,” he added. “Reverse shoulder arthroplasty received approval by the Federal Drug Administration in 2003. Before that there were no alternatives for patients like Paula.”
Undergoing a shoulder replacement can be a daunting experience, yet Bass was impressed—and reassured—by Dr. Villacis’ knowledge and compassion. “He asked about my family and made sure everything was explained to me prior to surgery,” she recalled.
Post-surgery, patients wear their arm in a sling for about four weeks, followed by physical therapy. Recovery typically takes 12 weeks, with the ultimate outcome being strong shoulder stability, a broader range of motion and freedom from pain.
That’s good news for Bass and her family. “I could feel a difference after physical therapy and was able to do resume housework like vacuuming,” Bass said. “I’ve really made progress.”