Mrs Kay White - shoulder surgery

Following recent shoulder surgery where Mrs Kay White underwent an arthroscopic rotator cuff interval release, she was able to discuss the issues that she faced prior to surgery, her decision making process and the relief that she has felt after the treatment. Her procedure was performed by consultant orthopaedic surgeon, and shoulder specialist, Mr Ali Al-Sabti.

When did you first start to have problems with your shoulder?

It started gradually, aching and I began to find it difficult to put on a jacket and do my bra strap up!  It was my right shoulder and I thought it was to do with my dog pulling me.  At first I just thought it would go and took painkillers and then, little by little, it got worse.

I really noticed twinges etc when reaching up to higher cupboards and decided I would go to an osteopath.

How did the problem affect your day to day life?

At the time I was doing a lot of work at my computer and it certainly ached more when I was using the mouse.  I bought a belt to use when walking the dogs which eased the “yanking” which could make me cry out.

How did you go about seeking medical advice?

I left it for too long.  Eventually it started to get stuck and I went for a referral to Mr Al-Sabti.  For about four months before this I had regular osteopathy sessions and the osteopath kept reassuring me it would ease up….it didn’t.  Eventually I asked him at what point would he recommend something else because I’d had enough!

Why did you choose Mr Al-Sabti to be your specialist?

I was referred to Mr Al-Sabti by my local GP and he was a recommended specialist for AxaPPP, our medical insurers.

What were the treatment options offered to you?

Initially, Mr Al-Sabti recommended the cortisone injection followed by intensive physiotherapy and hydrotherapy.  This was for about six weeks and eased the pain but the issue was still the same, my shoulder was stuck which meant I could only lift my whole arm to the height of my shoulder, not even 90 degrees movement. See the first picture on the right – my husband took these and it horrifies me now to see them.  

What made you decide to go ahead with surgery?

Deciding to have surgery was an easy decision. I was sick of the pain, of wincing when I put my jacket on, turned the steering wheel to the left etc. Mr Al-Sabti was confident that the operation would release the shoulder and that the effect would be immediate.  He was right.

When did you have the operation?

It was a case of “as soon as” for me once I’d made the decision that I wanted it done.

What was your opinion of the care you received at Spire Hartswood?

Really good. Nice room with a lovely view of trees and Thorndon Country Park. Very caring nurses and Mr Al-Sabti and his anaesthetist both came to see me before the op. I even requested the type of music that they’d play whilst I was being operated on!

What did the recovery process involve?

I stayed in overnight to ensure I was comfortable (my husband was relieved so that he didn’t have to be in charge!) and the physio came to see me that afternoon. I ate a lovely lunch and dinner and felt great. Got up and went to the bathroom etc and was surprised how good I felt.

The physiotherapist was really helpful and told me the exercises that would keep the progress going and we started the next day before I was discharged.

The same week I went to see the out-patient physiotherapist to make sure I was still progressing and she was amazed at how quick my recovery was. I drove again after two weeks and swapped arms with the computer mouse. The “bra strap” test - which was my benchmark - was passed ie I could (and still can) do it easily. Miraculous. 

Have you had to make any adaptations to maintain the benefits of your surgery?

The computer mouse…I never use one now because when I swapped the mouse over, I started to get twinges in my left shoulder. I went to see Mr Al-Sabti again, had a cortisone injection and some physio. It stopped it going any further. I now use the laptop pad and all is well. For me, clearly, having my shoulder suspended with the mouse was the main problem.

What advice would you give to another patient in a similar position to you?

Do something now rather than wait too long. Definitely do the follow up exercises and, at any signs of a recurrence, do something like I did with my left shoulder. The exercises and massage from the physio really helped stop the left shoulder freezing and I am now very aware of looking after my shoulders!

Is there anything you would have done differently in hindsight?

I did nothing for too long and my shoulder froze. I would see a specialist as soon as possible rather than hope the problem would go away. Lots of people said to me “oh, they often fix themselves after 18 months…” ie a year and a half of hoping, wincing and asking for help reaching around etc. The scar is a tiny nick, about the length of my little fingernail and doesn’t notice at all and the difference is huge and immediate. 

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Restricted shoulder movement

Normal shoulder movement

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