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Innovative Technique Repairs Mom’s Injured Shoulder

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's Orthopaedic and Spine Institute and experts who specialize in shoulder replacement techniques known as reverse shoulder arthroplasty. The procedure is a welcome alternative for patients like Bass with an irreparable rotator cuff tear. 

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.

As a result, the deltoid muscle at the top of the shoulder does all the work, rather than the rotator cuff. Reverse shoulder arthroplasty received approval by the Federal Drug Administration in 2003. Before that, there were no alternatives for patients like Paula.

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.”