"New Device Improves Shoulder Replacement Procedure" - NBC Washington

Published November 14, 2016

By Doreen Gentzler and Christina Romano

A device approved last year by the FDA is changing things up when it comes to shoulder replacements.

The device, which is smaller and more flexible than the typical rod used in shoulder transplants, helps doctors recreate the patient's normal anatomy more easily.

John Bowling’s serious shoulder pain started to interfere with his active life a few years ago.

“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,” said Dr. Peter Johnston of the Southern Maryland Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Center.

Bowling's degenerative arthritis created almost constant friction in his shoulder joints and severely limited his movement.

“Times it would get so bad sometimes he would scream out in the night,” said his wife, Brenda. “I mean that pain was unbelievable, the pain that came from those shoulders.”

“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,” Bowling said. “I asked my wife to help me, and she did, and the following Monday I went to work and I got home, and she said, ‘Tomorrow, you got a doctor's appointment.’”

Johnston performed a stemless shoulder replacement using the device recently approved by the FDA.

Traditionally, shoulder replacement uses a metal spike which can run halfway down the arm. The stemless device is an eighth of the size, fitting in the top of the arm bone.

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

“Day after surgery, doc came to see me and asked me how I was doing and I said I'm feeling great,” Bowling said. “I couldn't move it much and they wouldn't let you. Just the pain was gone.”

His only regret was suffering for five years before getting help.

The new procedure also has less blood loss, and preliminary evidence suggests there may be lower risk of infection.

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