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Advances in Arthroscopic Shoulder Surgery Improve Outcomes for Patients

By: Dr. Christopher R. Sforzo, M.D.

Smaller incisions, more precise surgical repairs and reduced pain and scarring are among the benefits of arthroscopic shoulder surgery, according Christopher R. Sforzo, M.D., a board certified orthopedic surgeon with Sforzo • Dillingham • Stewart Orthopedics in Sarasota.

“Today, we can treat most shoulder injuries and painful conditions using arthroscopic procedures rather than traditional open surgery,” said Sforzo, who is fellowship trained in hand and upper extremity surgery. “For patients, that means less pain, stiffness and scarring with fewer complications and better long-term results.”

Arthroscopy is well suited for treating rotator cuff tears, bursitis, arthritis, shoulder instability and labral tears, says Sforzo.  These minimally invasive techniques can also be used for complex shoulder joint replacement and “reverse” replacement procedures.

In terms of technology, one of the biggest advancements is the use of high-definition video cameras and monitors that provide surgeons with detailed images of the tissues inside the shoulder.  “We can see the cartilage, bones, tendons, and ligaments more clearly than ever,” said Sforzo. That includes getting a clearer “real-time” picture of the depth and size of a partial rotator cuff tear or the extent of smaller degenerative changes in the joint itself.

Patients who need shoulder joint replacements can benefit from new implants with less metal and more natural materials that can gradually be absorbed by the body. “Using these bioabsorbable materials provides greater peace of mind, since it’s a more natural solution to the joint problem,” Sforzo said.

For patients with torn rotator cuffs, Sforzo uses a special technique called double-row fixation that connects both the inside and the outside portion of the damaged tendon to the bone. “This provides a stronger and more stable fixation,” he said. Sforzo also uses “knotless repairs” so there is less rubbing and irritation to the surrounding tissues.

“We have been doing this rotator cuff fixation procedure for three years with better long-term outcomes, especially for large to massive tears,” he says. “It significantly reduces the risk of a re-rupture.”

Recovery from shoulder surgery can take several months, regardless of the surgical procedure.  Sforzo added that most patients make a full recovery and regain all or most of their shoulder strength.

Sforzo says age is not a major factor in determining whether or not to have arthroscopic shoulder surgery. “Every patient is different,” he said. “But anyone who is experiencing acute or chronic shoulder pain should see a orthopedic specialist for an assessment of the problem. In many cases, arthroscopic surgery may be an effective long-term solution.”

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