By Briana Vannozzi
Carol Polino knows well the discomfort of a rotator cuff injury.
“It was just a constant, constant pain, interference in my life ya know and then I couldn’t sleep something was definitely wrong,” said Polino.
She’s one of the first patients in the state to undergo a new rotator cuff surgery using what’s called a bio-inductive implant, a graft placed over the injured tendon. The result? A far less painful and quicker recovery than traditional methods.
“It’s almost regenerating the native tissue that’s there and it’s actually your own tissue. Traditionally when we did a repair, you had whatever tissue was left behind being sewn back down to the bone. Now we’re able to do that plus actually add back some bulk and mass to it which gives us a quicker recovery,” said Lourdes Medical Center Chief of Orthopedics Dr. Sean McMillan.
The implant induces new tissue growth and is eventually absorbed by the body. Up until now surgery wasn’t getting to the root of the problem — tissue structure. Making a patient prone to re-tears and taking anywhere from 6 months to a year to recover.
“We’re finding now with the patch we’re able to get people out of the sling in about a week or two, early physical therapy, early motion and back doing most activity by three months,” said McMillan.
“We are six months out now and I am perfectly ya know healed, I believe. And I’ve been so for a couple of months,” said Polino.
The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that hold the arm in the shoulder joint allowing it to move. Most injuries are from normal wear and tear and they’re pretty common.
More than half of adults age 60 or older have a partial or complete tear to the cuff and about 25 percent of all U.S. adults over age 40.
“Really for the last 15-20 years there’s been a huge emphasis on improving the biology of rotator cuff healing. We’ve gotten really good at the mechanical part of getting a rotator cuff repaired. But the biology part is what we’re not as good at. So there’s a ton of interest and support and research for coming up with some type of biologic augmentation,” said Dr. Frank Alberta.
If a tear is too deep — due to trauma or more likely a patient putting off surgery for too long — they may not be eligible for the implant.
“We basically evaluate the tissue quality as well as the tissue tear pattern to figure out if you’re a candidate for this,” McMillan said.
So far 16 patients have had the treatment since Lourdes Health System starting offering it nine months ago, including members of the armed forces.
“You talk about people who don’t have time to be down, our military need to get back doing what they do. What we found is a lot of our young soldiers who have had these tears, have really benefited from this. So instead of being laid up and missing missions for six months they’re back doing what they want in three months and they’re real real happy with it,” McMillan said.
McMillan and a team of orthopedic surgeons plan to publish a report after they perform surgery on 100 patients and follow the recovery for more than a year. They expect those findings could be out before the end of 2015.