Fran Gatti - Atlanta, MI
(photo of Gatti's surgeon, Kiel Beltinck, D.O.)
"I've come a long way since they surgery...I've had no pain."
New Arthroscopic Surgery Repairs Severe Shoulder Damage
Pain has been no stranger to 51-year-old Fran Gatti of Atlanta, Mich. For many years, she has dealt with the unique challenges her body has brought her. A few years ago, a new problem came her way.
For quite a while, Gatti had been experiencing pain and difficulty moving her shoulder. Over time, the pain became much worse and she was having great trouble moving it. Since it was the shoulder on her dominant arm, it was greatly interfering with her daily activities.
Gatti tried various therapies to get her shoulder back to normal. Cortisone shots were unsuccessful, as had been the case with other methods to reduce the pain. Finally, she went in for an MRI that showed the extent of the issue. Her rotator cuff tendon was completely torn and retracted. The rotator cuff muscle had atrophied to the point that it was now unrepairable.
At that point, it was clear that it was time for surgery. For this, Gatti turned to Orthopedic Surgeon Kiel Beltinck, D.O. Dr. Beltinck decided that Gatti was an ideal candidate for a new type of surgery. This new surgery, called arthroscopic superior capsular reconstruction, is minimally invasive and uses natural tissues to create a new rotator cuff tendon.
In January, she had an initial shoulder surgery where her rotator cuff was confirmed to be irreparable. At this time she was referred to Dr. Beltinck for a possible superior capsular reconstruction procedure. In April, Gatti became the first person in northern Michigan to receive this highly specialized procedure.
The surgery was performed at MidMichigan Medical Center - Alpena. The surgery lasted about four hours, and Gatti was taken care of very well while she was there. "Everybody was nice and friendly," she said.
During the procedure, Dr. Beltinck used a narrow arthroscope to view and work inside Gatti's shoulder joint. He measured the distance between points in her bones, then prepared a graft to match these dimensions. This graft is composed of the same structural proteins that hold cells together in tissues like skin, bone and muscle. It is strong yet flexible and allows the body's own cells to grow along it.
The tips of Gatti's humerus and glenoid were filed down a small amount to make room for the graft and encourage natural healing afterward. Dr. Beltinck then attached the graft to the ends of both bones, holding them together while still allowing normal shoulder range of motion. The graft was also stitched to nearby muscles to hold everything in place.
After the surgery was complete, Gatti was able to return home that same day, where she said her pain was minimal. She wore a sling and didn't use her arm for a while, allowing the graft to heal in place.
The relief from the surgery was rapid. "Since the surgery, I've had no pain," she said. The next part of her recovery, then, was to restore mobility to her newly-rejoined shoulder joint.
For that, Gatti began attending physical therapy at MidMichigan's Rehabilitation Services location in Atlanta. She received individualized treatment from a dedicated physical therapist, Jeff Petrik, D.P.T. "My therapist is an awesome guy," Gatti said. "He helped me a lot. He taught me how to do simple things like put deodorant on."
Although she got a bit sore at first from the exercises, Gatti could tell they were making good progress. "The more we worked it, the more we worked the pain out," she said. Petrik had her performing stretches and moves like salutes, bending her elbow to the 2:00 position and holding her hand overhead.
With this therapy, Gatti began regaining her normal function fairly quickly. After the first two weeks she was able to drive herself around again. Petrik had clearly done an excellent job building her shoulder strength and flexibility back up. Contributing to her success, no doubt, was the state-of-the-art surgery that enabled her joint tissues to repair themselves to a great extent. "He was amazed by how fast my arm improved afterward," she said.
Today, Gatti is well along the road to recovery. The doctors told her it would take at least six months for her shoulder to heal completely. Recently, though, she graduated to home therapy, where she is continuing to make improvements. Her current task is working on being able to reach out to the side, grab an object and pull it back in.
"I've come a long way since the surgery," Gatti said. "As long as I can stay pain-free, then I'm happy."
Those who would like more information on Dr. Beltinck or MidMichigan Health's orthopedic services may visit www.midmichigan.org/bonesandjoints.