The number of shoulder replacement surgeries has skyrocketed nationally and at Loyola University Medical Center as technology improves and aging Baby Boomers seek to relieve pain and restore function to arthritic shoulders.
Nationwide, the number of total and partial shoulder replacements increased from about 18,000 in 2000 to more than 45,000 in 2013, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). Loyola mirrors the trend: Loyola performed 10 times more total and partial shoulder replacements in 2015 than in 2010.
While still less common than hip and knee replacements, shoulder replacements are just as effective in relieving joint pain, according to the AAOS.
Bob DuBree is among the Loyola patients who have seen dramatic benefits from shoulder replacements. Mr. DuBree, 53, of Plainfield, Illinois, grew up on a farm and has done heavy lifting all his life. But arthritis left him so disabled that he could not raise either arm above his chin. He couldn't perform everyday tasks such as putting dishes away or even brushing his hair. His shoulders hurt so much he had trouble sleeping.
Loyola Medicine orthopaedic surgeon, Nickolas Garbis, MD, performed joint-replacement surgery on both of Mr. DuBree's shoulders. Now, Mr. DuBree has nearly full range of motion, and his shoulders are pain free. "The results have been phenomenal," he said.
Dr. Garbis has been performing shoulder replacements at Loyola since 2013 and has performed hundreds of shoulder replacement surgeries throughout his career. He did his fellowship training in shoulder replacement surgery at Johns Hopkins University.
In part to meet the growing demand, Loyola recently appointed a second orthopaedic surgeon, Dane Salazar, MD, who also specializes in shoulder replacement surgery. Shoulder replacements have enabled Dr. Salazar's patients to return to such activities as golfing, swimming and weight lifting. "A total shoulder replacement can be a grand slam," Dr. Salazar said. "I've had patients who told me they wished they had undergone the surgery five years earlier."
The shoulder provides more range of motion than any other joint. In a total shoulder replacement, the surgeon replaces the arthritic joint surfaces with a highly polished metal ball and a plastic socket. In a partial shoulder replacement, called hemiarthroplasty, the surgeon replaces only the ball, while keeping the patient's natural socket.
Mr. DuBree underwent two total joint replacements, first in his left shoulder, followed three and a half months later by his right. (Dr. Garbis noted that Mr. DuBree is an exceptional case; most of his patients undergo single-shoulder replacements.) Shoulder replacement surgery typically requires a night in the hospital. The patient wears a sling for about a month, and then gradually increases activity. The patient can resume most activities within three months. Full recovery takes six to 10 months. Overall, shoulder replacements have a long life span. Ninety percent are still working after 10 years and 80 percent after 20 years.
While patients are becoming more knowledgeable about shoulder replacements, awareness still lags behind that of hip and knee replacements, Dr. Garbis said.
"Many patients who could potentially benefit are not aware that a shoulder replacement is an option that can relieve pain and significantly improve function," Dr. Garbis said.
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