New Shoulder Replacement Surgery Gets You Moving Right Away


Innovation in medicine happens around the globe, but a pioneering shoulder replacement surgery, available only at St. Elizabeth Healthcare, gets you out of the shoulder sling within days of surgery.

The new, rotator cuff sparing shoulder replacement surgery was developed by Dr. R. Michael Greiwe, an affiliated surgeon with OrthoCincy Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine who practices at St. Elizabeth Healthcare.

Dr. Greiwe explains his motivation for developing the new procedure, “Orthopaedic surgeons needed something that was better for patients from a shoulder replacement. Other joint replacements have muscle-sparing techniques, but we were still cutting the rotator cuff to get to the shoulder joint. I believed we could do something that will cause less harm to the patient and help them recover quickly with positive outcomes.”

Traditional Replacement vs. Rotator Cuff Sparing Shoulder Replacement

During traditional shoulder replacement surgery, an incision is made in the front of the shoulder, and the front rotator cuff is cut to access and replace the shoulder’s ball and socket joint. Then, the rotator cuff is repaired, so the shoulder remains stable.

The traditional replacement has a long recovery. You are healing not only from the replacement of the joint, but the rotator cuff healing puts you in an arm sling for weeks before rehabilitation can begin.

During rotator cuff sparing surgery, an incision is made in the back of the shoulder, which gives the surgeon a better view and easier access to the shoulder joint. The rotator cuff does not need to be cut to access the arthritic joint. Shoulder arthritis can also cause the socket to wear out in the back of the shoulder. This new procedure gives a clear view of that part of the shoulder.

The new surgery also allows the surgeon to repair other damage that shoulder arthritis can cause. Dr. Greiwe explains, “Arthritis can cause the soft tissue in the back of the shoulder to stretch. This surgery allows a repair of the soft tissue to correct more than just the diseased joint.”

Benefits of Rotator Cuff Sparing Surgery

In the first two years, 47 people have had the new procedure and are noticing, including:

  • Minimally invasive procedure with a smaller incision.
  • Significantly less pain after surgery.
  • Reduced time on prescription pain medication (a week or less versus three months).
  • Regain strength and range of motion quicker.
  • Quicker return to work and family obligations.
  • Shorter physical therapy and rehabilitation period.
  • Faster total recovery time (three months versus six to nine months.)

Dr. Greiwe notes that data on the benefits are still being collected, “We have had good outcomes but we are collecting data to publish 6-month, 2-year and eventually 5- and 10-year data on the benefits.”

As the data is collected and can verify this method is better for the patients, Dr. Greiwe will start to help train other surgeons around the world on the new technique. Dr. Greiwe adds, “We are still making improvements to the instruments we use, and the introduction of robotics to shoulder replacement will make it easier for other surgeons to replicate this surgery.”

Am I a Candidate for Rotator Cuff Sparing Surgery?

If you have shoulder pain and limited motion due to arthritis in the shoulder joint, you could be a candidate.

Symptoms of arthritis in shoulder include:

  • Pain and weakened muscles.
  • Loss of range of motion in the shoulder.
  • A sensation of grinding inside the shoulder.
  • An ache in the shoulder that radiates down the arm.

Dr. Greiwe explains the approach from the back of the shoulder isn’t ideal for a few patients, “If you have loose bones in the front of the shoulder or have large bone spurs you will still benefit from the traditional replacement.”

To find out more about the new rotator cuff sparing surgery for total shoulder replacement and whether this method is best for you, please call our affiliated orthopaedic surgeons from OrthoCincy Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine at (859) 301-BONE (2663).