I was recently contacted by Donna, a woman in her 60’s that we treated last spring for a shoulder rotator cuff tear. Back then, Donna was told that she had a full thickness rotator cuff tear that needed surgery. Last week she informed me that our precise injection of stem cells had worked well – her orthopedic surgeon was impressed. She also wanted me to know that the reading radiologist was unable to find the tear on a follow-up image!
Shoulder rotator cuff tears can be hard to heal. Most full thickness tears like Donna’s fail physical therapy and end up being surgically repaired. Despite this trend, recent research has shown that the surgery results for rotator cuff repair aren’t all that great. In addition, many torn rotator cuffs have lost the ability to heal due to a lack of local stem cells to initiate healing.
Donna is an active 61 year old woman who looks like she’s in her mid-40s who is married to a physician who supported her desire to avoid surgery. Her initial MRI showed a full thickness suprispinatus tear at the very front of the tendon with considerable swelling there and complex tearing of the superior labral attachment of the biceps. Since we always look at the whole person and not just a shoulder, she was also noted to have a pinched nerve in the neck which wasn’t helping. In April of 2014 she underwent a Regenexx-SD shoulder stem cell procedure with precise placement of the cells under ultrasound and fluoroscopy into the tendon tears and superior labrum. Her recovery was typical, in that it took a few months to really feel better. The MRI report above confirms the healing – now the reading radiologist is unable to readily identify the tear area on the images. I also read the images myself and that area does show significant healing.
The upshot? For an older and very active woman, in my experience, surgery would be unlikely to return Donna to full activity. As a result, she decided to take a different tack, using her own stem cells to try and heal this rotator cuff tear through a precise injection with minimal downtime. We’re happy to see that she’s doing well!