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Health Team

New stemless shoulder replacement improves recovery time, range of motion

Posted December 2, 2016

Sixty-three-year-old John Bowling has led an active life, but a few years ago, serious shoulder pain started to interfere with his lifestyle.

Bowling says his pain, which came from degenerative arthritis and the friction in his shoulder joints, would range anywhere from a "9 to 11" on a scale of 10 depending on how high he tried to raise his arms. Eventually, the pain began restricting Bowling's ability to move.

"At times it would get so bad he would scream out in the night," Brenda Bowling, John's wife, said. "The pain was unbelievable."

Orthopaedic surgeon Peter Johnston said Bowling's condition is not uncommon.

"Osteoarthritis is basically a thinning or loss of cartilage which lines the bone and creates a smooth surface for the two bones to slide one against another, and in his case it was completely gone," he said.

Bowling said the pain eventually landed him in Johnston's office.

"The final straw was getting ready to go to church on a Sunday morning and I couldn't get my arms up to pull my pants up or tuck my shirt in," he said.

"Options for him were doing a half-shoulder replacement or full-shoulder replacement," Johnston said.

Johnston opted for a stemless shoulder replacement, a new procedure which uses a small device approved in 2015 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Traditionally, shoulder replacement requires the use of a device with a metal spike that runs about halfway down the humerus.

New stemless shoulder replacement improves recovery time, range of motion

The stemless device, which is about one-eighth the size, fits in the top of the arm bone.

"(The stemless device) basically fits into the humerus, and then we actually cut the ball off and replace it with this metal ball, and the metal ball rests on the plastic socket," Johnston said.

New stemless shoulder replacement improves recovery time, range of motion

Bowling had his right shoulder replaced in January, and then had the left side done a few months later.

"The day after surgery, the doctor came to see me and asked how I was doing, and I said, 'I'm feeling great,'" Bowling said.

Bowling said his only regret is that he allowed himself to suffer for five years before getting help.

"I can raise them all the way up," he said. "And no more pain."

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