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Fast Fix For Rotator Cuff: August 15, 2012

It can be the result of years of wear and tear or from an injury, but thousands of Americans grapple with a torn rotator cuff.

Don Pettit was doing some heavy lifting when something went wrong.

“Yes, I was moving a generator out of my shed and I fell over the lawn mower,” says Pettit.

He hurt more than his pride; turns out Don tore his rotator cuff. It was something he couldn’t ignore.

“My arm couldn’t go above my shoulder.  I couldn’t brush my teeth, I couldn’t put a belt on my pants because I couldn’t reach around behind me,” says Pettit.

Years ago, surgery to reconstruct the tear required an open surgery.

“Typically, a large incision would be made over the shoulder girdle.  You have to violate the deltoid muscle, which is the large muscle on the outside portion of the shoulder, open that up, and then expose the underlying rotator cuff underneath,” says Dr. John Mehalik, an orthopedic surgeon on the medical staff of Lee Memorial Health System.

But Pettit elected to undergo a less-invasive, arthroscopic rotator repair. Performed as an outpatient, he was home recovering in four hours.

“With the arthroscope, what we can do is make a few little nicks in the skin, watch it under about 50 times magnification which allows us to do a much more meticulous job to reconstruct the rotator cuff, and importantly not damage the deltoid muscle at all,” says Dr. Mehalik.

Having had the surgery performed arthroscopically, Pettit is further ahead in his recovery. With no large incision, more of the muscle and tissues are left intact which makes for a quicker recovery.

It’s only been eight weeks and Pettit is getting his groove back.

“I can finally put my belt on, I can raise my arm above my head, I can scratch my back. It feels great,” says Pettit.

The ‘fast fix’ arthroscopic repair is quickly gaining traction. It now accounts for 50 percent of rotator cuff reconstructions.