New procedure rebuilds shoulder without replacing it
After 36 years of coaching and teaching youth, Reginald Lucas was looking forward to retiring in 2013 and playing a lot of golf.
But in 2010, the one-time minor league baseball player and former college basketball coach tore the rotator cuff in his left shoulder after a work-related injury. The pain was so intense he cringed every time he lifted his arm. "I had a lot of restless nights. I couldn't sleep. If I rolled over on it the wrong way, I had a sharp pain," the 63-year-old said.After several rotator cuff surgeries with no relief, Lucas almost gave up hope until he met Kevin Kaplan, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute.
The head team physician for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Dr. Kaplan had trained to perform a unique procedure developed in Japan called superior capsular reconstruction.
A third option
Most rotator cuff tears can be fixed, but there are times when the torn tissues become so retracted that the rotator cuff, much like a rubber band that loses its elasticity, cannot be directly repaired.
Those patients were left two options: live with the pain and limited motion, or have their whole shoulder joint replaced. That may not be ideal for younger patients, whose shoulder replacement might eventually wear out.
Capsular reconstruction offers a third way. Instead of replacing the shoulder’s ball and socket, Dr. Kaplan can reconstruct the rotator cuff using donated cadaver tissue, an approach similar to knee reconstruction procedures.
In April 2015, Lucas was Dr. Kaplan's first patient to undergo the procedure and one of the first in Florida.
“I didn't mind being the first,” he said. “If I was willing to try it, [Dr. Kaplan] was willing to work at getting it done. I think [he] is one of the up and coming young doctors who is going to go far and do a lot. He has the mindset to achieve."
Lucas is used to being active. He played baseball at New Stanton High School and Florida A & M University before spending a year as an infielder in the Atlanta Braves farm system. He was head basketball coach at Edward Waters College and coached baseball and basketball in Duval County schools while also teaching physical education and exceptional education.
"He had to almost make me a new shoulder," Lucas said of Dr. Kaplan. "He's wonderful. He stepped outside the box to try something new that had never been tried before.”
Lucas said he could move his shoulder around four to six weeks after surgery, as opposed to six to eight months with his previous rotator cuff surgeries.
"Medicine is always evolving and this is an evolution in orthopedics," said Dr. Kaplan, who now speaks to surgeons nationally about the procedure and its benefits. "This technique is still new, but patients are doing fantastic after their one-year follow up. Studies still have to be done to quantify the long-term benefits."
As for Lucas, he’s glad to be back golfing and walking five miles a day. "I golf every time someone gives me a chance," Lucas said.
To learn more about shoulder and other orthopedic treatments, go to joionline.net.