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Total Reverse Shoulder Replacement: May 13, 2011

It's not the way nature intended. But a total reverse shoulder replacement is a last resort for patients suffering from complex shoulder issues.

"Often folks already had an attempt at rotator cuff repair, and for whatever reason, maybe it didn't heal, or the tendon re-tore and got to the point where it was irreparable" says orthopedic surgeon Dr. Todd Atkinson. "Then the arthritis sets in and then this is performed."

True to it's name, the reverse shoulder actually reconfigures the body's anatomy. Restructuring the shoulder joint by moving the ball to where the socket used to be and putting the socket where the ball used to be. The surgery was perfected in Europe before being approved in the United States. Dr. Atkinson is a trailblazer in this procedure. "I was actually able to work with the famous shoulder surgeon in Switzerland who is doing about 10 of these a week and he was able to teach me how they're done."

In the past, people with severe shoulder issues were often forced to live with the pain, and accepted difficulties with things like elevating their arm. With this surgery, many are back to enjoying an active lifestyle. "We have many people who have had the reverse shoulder replacement who are able to go back to swimming or able to go back to golf or able to back to tennis" Atkinson says.

The reverse shoulder replacement is not a substitute for traditional surgery, but is arming doctors with a new tool to battle chronic pain.