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Regaining a Lifestyle

Regaining a Lifestyle Through a Revolutionary Shoulder Procedure

Loretta Garber Loretta Garber depends on her right arm for her livelihood – and for one of her favorite hobbies. As financial secretary for First Church of the Nazarene in Waynesburg, Pa., Loretta writes all the checks and handles bookkeeping. When she isn't working, Loretta enjoys painting still life pictures. But during a fall in her basement in October 2005, Loretta's arm, lifestyle and dreams were abruptly shattered.

"The fall not only broke my arm, but it also crushed the ball in my shoulder," recalls Loretta. "I knew right away that this was no ordinary fracture."

Loretta required emergency surgery at a hospital in her area after being diagnosed with a complex shoulder fracture. Due to the complexity of the fracture, Loretta needed a hemiarthroplasty (or a humeral prosthesis) – a surgical procedure that replaces one half of the joint with an artificial surface and leaves the other part in its natural state. The procedure is performed by removing the fractured head of the humerus and replacing it with a metal or composite prosthesis. It is common to have loosening of the prosthesis over time, which can cause pain and weakness. In Loretta's case, due to a rotator cuff deficiency, the surgery failed to provide relief of pain and restoration of motion.

"I could hardly raise or move my right arm – it was essentially useless," said Loretta, 66, a resident of Waynesburg. "As a result, I had to take a leave of absence from work and quit painting."

When Loretta was referred to Christopher Schmidt, M.D., a hand and upper extremities specialist at Allegheny General Hospital's Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, she regained hope that her shoulder could be successfully rebuilt.

"Dr. Schmidt told me that reverse shoulder replacement surgery was a highly effective option for many patients whose shoulder could no longer work properly because of an injury or arthritis," said Loretta.

In June 2006, Dr. Schmidt implanted a reverse shoulder replacement in Loretta's right arm to restore her rotator cuff and shoulder joint. According to Dr. Schmidt, a reverse shoulder replacement functions like a mechanical rotator cuff by holding the humerus and the glenoid together.

"The normal socket is replaced with an artificial ball, and the normal ball is replaced with an implant that has a socket into which the artificial ball rests," explained Dr. Schmidt, one of only a few surgeons nationwide who have been trained to perform this procedure. "This implant allowed the deltoid to power the arm, which restored Loretta's ability to lift her arm."

Following six weeks of rehabilitation at the Human Motion Center – South (Southpointe) in Canonsburg, Pa., Loretta regained most of the mobility in her right shoulder and was able to return to work. She also plans on resuming oil painting soon and playing golf with her husband.

Loretta has nothing but praise for the care she received from the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. "Thanks to this surgery, I have experienced a miraculous change in my lifestyle," she said. "I am deeply indebted to Dr. Schmidt, the therapists and other staff for their expert, compassionate care."

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