Hoffman Estates patient benefits from new reverse shoulder replacement surgery

Jennifer Okray
Updated 10/2/2012 4:29 PM
  • Joan Jarzemsky has new lease on life after reverse shoulder replacement surgery

    Joan Jarzemsky has new lease on life after reverse shoulder replacement surgery Jarzemsky family

Hoffman Estates, IL. Oct.2, 2012 -- Nearly 25 years after shattering her shoulder, Joan Jarzemsky, 88, is back to tending to her flower garden thanks to a new innovative surgery called reverse shoulder replacement.
Jarzemsky, a retired assistant manager of Prairie Center for the Arts, is an avid gardener as well as volunteer, choral singer and babysitter for 14 grandkids. One day, while at work, she fell directly on her shoulders. For years, "no doctor wanted to touch it because it was a very bad injury."
"I am very active and not one to sit around," says Jarzemsky. "Even though I had a shattered shoulder I continued to do a lot."
As the years went by, the pain became worse and Jarzemsky went to her regular orthopedic doctor. After an MRI, he told her there was a new procedure, called reverse shoulder replacement, for people with severe shoulder arthritis or injury. He recommended she find an experienced physician to do the surgery. Her oldest son, who is a family practice doctor in Wisconsin, told her a colleague recommended Dr. Gregory Nicholson at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush.
"My son said I need to find someone who has done a lot of reverse shoulders because it is not a normal procedure to do," said Jarzemsky. "He came with me to see Dr. Nicholson and the first thing he asked was how many of those surgeries had he done." Nicholson said he did more than 300 and Jarzemsky and her son were convinced he was the best and scheduled a surgery. In 2009,
Dr. Nicholson, who was among the first surgeons in the U.S.to perform reverse shoulder replacement surgeries, successfully restored function and mobility to Jarzemsky's shoulder.
"In the past, surgeons were unable to treat patients with shoulder and rotator cuff problems because little could be done. People just relied on pain pills for pain management", Nicholson admits. "But reverse shoulder replacement surgery is making a world of difference for these patients who finally have an option that will make a difference in arm movement and allow them to do daily activities they couldn't do in the past."
Research by the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery directly connects surgery success to surgeons who have done the most procedures. Dr. Nicholson was integral in the development of reverse shoulder replacements. The technique changes the orientation of the shoulder such that the ball and socket joint are switched and replaced with prosthetics. The natural ball, normally at the end of the arm bone, is replaced with a prosthetic socket and the natural socket is switched to a metal ball. This design completely changes the mechanics of the shoulder and enables it to function without the rotator cuff.
Shoulder replacement, also known as shoulder arthroplasty, is a rising occurrence and the third most common joint replacement after knees and hips. According to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the number of shoulder arthroplasty procedures increased by 145% between 1997 and 2005. This is likely due to improved technology and reports of successful long-term outcomes associated with excellent pain relief and restoration of function.
Recovery time for this procedure is typically three to six months to have full use of the arm and shoulder along with a few weeks of physical therapy.
"Recovery didn't happen overnight," said Jarzemsky. "I did my own exercises Dr. Nicholson gave me because he felt there was too much danger of getting the replacement out of alignment with a professional therapist." Most therapists were not trained on how to properly rehabilitate a reverse shoulder replacement.
After six months of therapy, Jarzemsky had complete pain-free mobility in her shoulder. She remembers the first time she had full use of her shoulder in nearly 25 years.
"One day I was putting my dishes away and forgot I had injured my arm and I thought, 'oh my goodness, it has happened!'"
As one of the nation's top providers of traditional and reverse shoulder replacement surgeries, Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush will hold several seminars about options for shoulder pain and injuries. They include:
• Tuesday, October 16, 6:30 p.m. at Bolingbrook Country Club in Bolingbrook
• Thursday, October 25, 6:30 p.m. at Oakbrook Hills Marriott Resort in Oak Brook
• Tuesday, October 30, 2 p.m. at Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield