UAB offering new treatment option for rotator cuff injury

WAFF 48's Jasmyn Cornell reporting
Published: Mar. 2, 2022 at 5:53 AM CST
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - Rotator cuff tears are the most common types of shoulder injuries. Every year, millions of Americans go to the doctor because of a rotator cuff issue.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham says it is offering a new treatment that can bring relief for patients with a major irreparable rotator cuff tear.

The rotator cuff consists of muscles and tendons that hold your shoulder in place. It is one of the most important parts of your shoulder. While rotator cuff injuries can impact younger individuals, they tend to occur more frequently as you get older.

Usually, doctors start to see these issues once an individual turns 40. By the time some people hit 60, there is a good chance they have some partial or complete tears of the rotator cuff.

According to UAB, partial tears may heal on their own. However, significant, or full, rotator injuries usually require surgical treatment to heal. In some cases, the tear is so massive that even surgical treatment cannot repair the rotator cuff.

UAB says the new treatment option uses a balloon spacer to reduce bone-on-bone pain.

“Subacromial balloon spacer is basically a biodegradable, biocompatible saline-filled balloon that you put where the rotator cuff used to be for these patients that have non-repairable rotator cuff tears,” said Dr. Aaron Casp, Assistant Professor of Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine at UAB.

“It basically keeps the ball of the bone and socket of the shoulder in place and helps you elevate your arm and use your arm away from your body the way you normally would,” he added.

After the treatment, patients can safely rehabilitate their shoulder through physical therapy, and soon, the balloon will dissolve, said UAB.

UAB says they’ve been implementing this treatment since September, and so far, patients have been doing well. According to Dr. Casp, most people are seeing maximum function in about three to four months.

According to a UAB press release, Dr. Casp says, “We’re proud to offer this new technology that helps our patients with serious injuries function a little better.”

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