All of us are familiar with arthritis, but we may not realize there are more than 100 different types of arthritis and related conditions. Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in America, and more than 50 million adults and 300,000 children have it. The most common arthritis joint symptoms include swelling, pain, stiffness and decreased range of motion. Symptoms can come and go, and they can be mild, moderate or severe. That was the case with my knee, but I finally reached the point where the pain and lack of mobility led me to have it replaced. There are a number of stories about my 2008 knee replacement experience in my blog. One that has the details is here.
Ten years later, my shoulders reached the same stage. After evaluating a number of alternative treatments, I decided to get my right shoulder replaced on October 25, 2018, and the left one sometime later. Rotator cuff repairs and other shoulder surgeries are common, but a total replacement of the shoulder joint is much more complex. A top hip and knee surgeon might do 400 replacements per year. A top shoulder replacement surgeon might do 75 per year. There are not as many cases requiring a total shoulder replacement although, with improved technology and experience plus an aging population, the number is growing.
I elected to have my replacement done at Danbury Hospital in Connecticut by Dr. Ross Henshaw. Dr. Henshaw went to medical school at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons, his residency and internship was at New York Presbyterian Hospital, and a Fellowship in Sports Medicine was at New York’s Hospital for Special Surgery. I have known Dr. Henshaw for many years and entered the OR with complete confidence when the propofol wore off I would wake up in the recovery room with a new and perfectly installed shoulder joint.
For my new shoulder, Dr. Henshaw selected the Tonier Aequalis Ascend Flex shoulder joint made by Wright Medical Group N.V., a Netherlands based global medical device company, soon to be acquired by Stryker, if regulators approve it. I suppose many people would not want to know the details but, as I move along toward becoming a bionic person, I want to know what is going into my body. The video here shows an excellent animation of all the cobalt-chromium alloy and polyethylene components which became part of the new shoulder. When you see the precision engineered components, and considering that the tool boxes and all contents must be sterile, you can see why a joint replacement is complicated. If you have the stomach for it, you can watch an actual shoulder replacement surgery performed at Stanford University here.
The surgery is incredibly impressive, but an equal part of the total solution is physical therapy. I have known Valory Ramsdell, PT, for 15 years. She is a graduate of the University of Connecticut School Of Medicine, and has more than 40 years of experience in physical therapy. Valory is a hands-on therapist. This is really important, especially at the beginning of the therapy program. A final part of the total solution is me, the patient. I prepared mentally for months and was dedicated to following the physical therapy program fully. It is no fun and much of it is painful, but I know it is critical to the most effective recovery.
Life in an awkward sling and bolster was no picnic during the weeks after surgery. Performing matutinal duties without my dominant right hand was challenging. The pain can be debilitating, but I did not want to take too much pain medication and be a vegetable in my office chair. Fortunately, interactions with the Mac, iPhone, and iPad can be done via voice. Ultimately, we probably will have no keyboards, but at this stage, I find voice recognition to have some shortcomings. It is getting better, but until AI takes a larger role, we will still have to do a lot of editing of what we dictate.
Fast forward two years, and the time has arrived for the left shoulder to become a twin of the other. Dr. Henshaw will be using the same proven technology. By the time you read this, I will be home recovering