Harry Bearringer loves the outdoors, particularly camping and freshwater fishing. In April 2018, Harry was working on his RV. The battery was dead, and as he lifted the almost 70 pound device from the vehicle to his workbench, he heard what sounded like a wooden pencil breaking. “It hurt very badly,” says the retired construction worker. After his injury, Harry could barely sleep two hours a night because of the pain.
Harry’s primary physician, Dr. Clifton Etienne, referred him to Dr. Lucas Schnell, an orthopedic surgeon at the Center for Spine and Orthopedics. In June 2018, he saw Dr. Schnell, who diagnosed his shoulder injury as a full thickness rotator cuff tear and biceps tendinitis. Harry tried cortisone shots and physical therapy, but neither relieved his pain. By September, he would not even lift his left arm up to scratch his head. At that point, he returned to see Dr. Schnell, who recommended surgery. “The smartest decision I ever made was to have surgery,” says Harry.
On October 16, Dr. Schnell performed arthroscopic superior capsule reconstruction (SCR) surgery to rebuild the rotator cuff in Harry’s left shoulder. During a SCR procedure, the surgeon utilizes a graft from the superior glenoid to the greater tuberosity to stabilize the humeral head. “Superior capsule reconstruction is typically used to repair massive, irreparable rotator cuff tears where little remains of the rotator cuff,” says Dr. Schnell. “This procedure improves a patient’s pain and function.”
During the procedure, Dr. Schnell inserted a small camera, called an arthroscope, into Harry’s shoulder joint. The camera displayed images on a television screen that Dr. Schnell used to guide miniature surgical instruments to perform the SCR. Arthroscopic repairs are the least invasive method for repairing torn rotator cuffs.
When Harry woke up from his surgery, the pain in his left shoulder was gone. “I knew he had done what he was supposed to do,” says Harry. “I expected to have pain from the surgery, but I never had any. Dr Schnell is fantastic.”
Harry’s recovery lasted six months. He attended physical therapy twice a week for three months after his surgery. After that, he performed home exercises twice weekly, according to Dr. Schnell’s detailed protocol.
In April 2019, Dr. Schnell checked Harry left shoulder’s range of motion. “He told me that I was good to go,” says Harry. “Now, I’m able to do everything that I could do before my injury, except for a little overhead lifting, which he told me to expect. That’s as good as it gets, especially at my age.”
As Harry thinks ahead to this summer, he looks forward to camping and fishing in the Arkansas Valley near Buena Vista.
“My whole experience with Dr. Schnell and the team that work with him was absolutely fantastic,” says Harry. “If you need to have surgery, I recommend Dr. Schnell.”
For an appointment with Dr. Schnell, call the
Center for Spine and Orthopedics at 303-287-2800.
Torn Rotator Cuff Symptoms
The most common symptoms of a rotator cuff tear are:
- Pain at rest and at night, particularly when lying on the affected shoulder
- Pain when lifting and lowering your arm or with specific movements
- Weakness when lifting or rotating your arm
- Crepitus or crackling sensation when moving your shoulder in certain positions
- Tears that happen suddenly usually cause intense pain. There may be a snapping sensation and immediate weakness in your upper arm.
- Tears that develop slowly due to overuse also cause pain and arm weakness. You may have pain in the shoulder when you lift your arm to the side, or pain that moves down your arm. At first, the pain may be mild; over time, the pain may become more noticeable at rest, and you may have pain when you lie on the painful side at night.
When to Consider Surgery
Your doctor may recommend surgery for a torn rotator cuff if your pain does not improve with nonsurgical methods. Continued pain is the main indication for surgery. If you are very active and use your arms for overhead work or sports, your doctor may also suggest surgery.
Other signs that surgery may be a good option include:
- Your symptoms have lasted 3 to 6 months.
- You have a large tear (more than 3 cm).
- You have significant shoulder weakness and loss of function.
- Your tear was caused by a recent, acute injury.
- Many surgical repairs do not require you to stay overnight in the hospital.