Recently I had surgery on my shoulder, and have receieved many questions
about it. Since the history is long, I wanted to write this once and
give you all the salient facts in a logical order.
When I was three weeks old my grandmother discovered, while baby sitting
me, I would cry profusely if she raised my left arm over my head. As soon
as she released my arm I stopped crying. Having raised many children,
my grandmother knew something must be wrong, and took me to the
At the hospital the doctors ran test on my arm, and discovered that I
had a bone infection caused by E. Coli. I've been told this was very
uncommon at the time, and my case was written up in the medical journals
I have never looked for the writeup though, because I don't know
where to look. The doctor's immediately scheduled me for surgery once
they realized what I had. They feared the E. Coli would travel up my
shoulder, to the neck, and into my brain killing me. The surgery was
Well the surgery was mostly successful. I of course lived, and the
infection was gone, but the combination of surgery and infection
damaged my growth plates and caused the ball of my left shoulder joint
to grow slightly mishapen. This had two results: 1) my left arm is
shorter than my right, and 2) I have arthritis in my left shoulder,
because the cartilage has been rubbed away over thirty years of living.
I was unaware my arm was shorter until I was 18. I was in the gym doing
military press, when my spotter told me to straighten my left arm. I
said, "it is straigtht," and he rejoindered, "no it isn't. The bar is
crooked." Then we both noticed my left arm was straight and shorter. The
only time this really affects me now is when I rent a tuxedo or rock climb.
I didn't know about the arthritis until I was thirty. I had recently
started rock climbing again, and felt as if I had torn something in my
left shoulder. I went to see a doctor, Thomas Burns, and discovered via
X-rays my shoulder was mishapen and causing arthritis. I went to
physical therapy for 3 weeks to gain mobility and strength in my
shoulder, but with continued rock climbing it did not really help. I
eventually stopped climbing, because the pain was so intense. I really
wanted to climb though, so I went in for an MRI to make certain I hadn't
really torn something. The MRI report stated I had two fragments
floating in my shoulder, and a misaligned tendon. The fragments were
most likely loose cartilage, and the misaligned tendon is the one
connecting the bicep to the bone. After talking it over with my doctor,
I elected to have the surgery to clean the fragments out of my shoulder,
and re-align the tendon. The surgery was successful.
Well the surgery was mostly successful. I of course lived, and we now
new for sure exactly how bad the joint was. X-rays and MRI's can really
only give you an estimate of how bad it is. The wear on the joint was
not as bas as we had originally thought, but the bad news was the
doctor was unable to find any loose fragments in my shoulder. What he
did find was a massive amount of scar tissue. In fact when he first
entered the joint with the scope, he thought he had misplaced it the
joint was so overgrown with scar tissue. In addition to being "bad" for
me it makes the surgery difficult since the amount of scar tissue I had
was actually blocking his visibility.
One thing he does when the patient is out for surgery is to move the
shoulder through its full range of motion. What this does is allow the
doctor to see how far the shoulder can still move regardless of pain.
It also tears any scar tissue that may have formed over time. Typically
scar tissue has formed over the course of a few months or years, and
tears pretty easily. In my case I had 30 years of it, and it wouldn't
tear at all. The doctor compared it to leather.
The other interesting bit, was that my tendon was not mis-aligned. It
just had so much scar tissue over it that the MRI looked as if it was
mis-aligned. The scar tissues is in fact holding the tendon in place.
It is really not as bad as it all sounds though. My day to day life is
totally un-affected, unless I do something really stupid I can't really
do anything to make my shoulder worse, and since I am so used to pain in
my left shoulder, the recovery was a breeze. Most patients who have
this surgery are in a lot of pain. On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the worst
pain you have ever felt in your life, I never got above a 2. In fact my
mother and wife had to force me to take the pain medicine. I wanted skip it.
Other facts related to the surgery:
1) I had surgery on a Tuesday, and by Thursday stopped using the sling.
2) I will be attending 6 sessions of physical therapy to strengthen the
muscles in the shoulder.
3) Since no muscles or tendons were affected by the surgery, there are no
real physical restrictions on me.
4) My shoulder will continue to worsen, so in 20 years I may have another
surgery to "fix" it again.
5) If I ever fail a climbing move or juggling trick I can conveniently
blame my left shoulder.
That is the story of my surgery. If you have any questions feel free
to ask me.
The big black looking tube is the tube that sucks out the blood and debris
Almost everything you see that is white is scar tissue.
|Lots o' scar tissues
||More scar tissues