Bilateral shoulder surgery transforms life for auto industry engineer
For many people who require a joint replacement surgery, nagging pains start slowly. For Mark Messer, they arrived quickly and were debilitating. In early 2018, the active 64-year-old Michigan-based automotive engineer who loves riding jet skis, snowskiing and tossing around a baseball with his grandkids began feeling pain in his right shoulder.
“It got to the point where it started to ache all the time. I couldn’t sleep lying down. I had to sleep in a Lazy Boy [recliner] with pillows all around me,” he recalled. “I’d be sleeping, then wake up in the middle of the night and it felt like a car ran over my shoulder.”
Messer relied on pain medication for pain relief at first, but he eventually went to see his primary care physician for guidance.
New shoulders on the horizon
Messer tried cortisone shots for about six months and even spent time in the gym to see if he could regain his shoulder’s strength and mobility. Ultimately, his primary care physician referred him to The CORE Institute. There, Dr. William Kesto, a Fellowship Trained Sports Medicine Surgeon, quickly saw that osteoarthritis had fully deteriorated Messer’s right shoulder socket. The shoulder would need to be replaced.
Messer was stunned by the news initially: “I thought, ‘what do you mean I need a new shoulder? People don’t do that.’”
The total shoulder replacement procedure Messer needed involves replacing the humeral head, or the top part of the arm (humerus), as well as the socket (glenoid) that attaches the humerus to the shoulder blade. Messer was impressed with Dr. Kesto’s ability to explain the procedure and why it works so well.
“I always walk patients through their x-rays, so they understand the pathology,” Dr. Kesto said. “I have an anatomic model of the shoulder in my office, so I can show them what the implant looks like and how we perform the surgery. That visual aid helps patients understand why it works and why they’re going to eventually feel a lot better.”
Typically, patients with osteoarthritis who need a total shoulder replacement have difficulty reaching their arms above their head and using their hands behind their back. The simple act of threading a belt through belt loops can be challenging.
“Technology has improved tremendously in the last five to ten years, so many more patients can get this procedure now,” Dr. Kesto added. “The sockets last longer, and you don’t have to put a long stem on the humeral side, just the humeral head which may result in less pain and surgical time.”
After care, recovery
Depending on your goals, shoulder replacement surgery recovery can take between three and six months to get all the muscles working together again and to fully regain motion. Messer spent six months in physical therapy, three sessions per week, after his right shoulder replacement. After the success of the first surgery in October of 2018, Messer opted for a left shoulder replacement in May of 2020 and had twice-a-week physical therapy for six months for that procedure.
“After the right shoulder was done, I realized how bad the left one really was,” Messer said. “Now, my range of motion for both arms is above 90%. Now I can change lightbulbs up in the ceiling and I’m going to ride my WaveRunners again this summer and do some kayaking.”
Like Messer, many of Dr. Kesto’s patients are still surprised to learn a total shoulder replacement is even possible today.
“I think that’s one of the things people don’t know. They can regain a lot of their function and get back to doing the things they like to do with these operations,” Dr. Kesto explained. “I think the message is to inquire about these procedures and not just accept the functional limits you have in life.”