New surgery for rotator cuff injuries

June 4, 2010 3:34:58 PM PDT
It's one of the most common problems for major league pitchers, but you don't have to be an all-star athlete to suffer from a torn rotator cuff.

Nearly one-third of all orthopedic injures are linked to tears in these tendons and muscles in the shoulder.

A new surgery developed by the team doctor for the Los Angeles Dodgers is now benefitting everyday athletes, too.

For two years, Jan Graves couldn't move her arm.

"One day, I woke up, and the pain was incredible. Any movement at all caused pain," Graves said.

Jan tore her right rotator cuff. After surgery to fix it, she tore it again. 10 to 15 percent of repairs fail.

"This area where we've marked on the top of the tendon can actually tear and retract back off of the bone," Graves said.

Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Kevin Kaplan did biomechanical studies for a new arthroscopic repair called a net bridge.

"What I've done is put in two anchors on this medical row," Kaplan said.

Anchors, sutures and a special fibertape are used to create a net, to compress and hold tendon to bone.

"Much like a net on the side of a mountain holding rocks on the side of the mountain, we're actually compressing that part of the tendon down, capturing it like a net and protecting it while the patient is moving his or her shoulder," he said.

Extra protection and strength. Five months after surgery, Jan can move pain-free.

"Oh, it's like a new lease on life. You know, it's given me more energy than anything just knowing that I'm not going to be hurting," Graves said.

Now, she's on target for an active, healthy future.

Most patients can resume active motion within six weeks, and there is a much lower risk of re-injuring the shoulder with the net-bridge procedure than with traditional repairs.