Your Health: Balloon spacers rescue rotator cuffs

Published: May. 22, 2023 at 4:23 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Shoulder rotator cuff injuries are extremely painful for the patient and challenging for surgeons.

If the injury is massive, doctors hope for a functional outcome, using different surgical techniques, but one new method is giving surgeons an additional way to repair the tear.

Every year, two million people experience a tear in their rotator cuff. Rotator cuffs surround the shoulder joint, keeping the upper arm bone firmly within the shoulder socket.

Now, balloon spacers are providing surgeons much need help in the operating room.

“You put it in just as an unfilled balloon,” said Dr. Gregory Gasbarro. “And then you pump the fluid saline into it and it props open that space.”

The FDA recently approved balloon spacers and come in different sizes. A doctor determines the appropriate size of the balloon to fill the space.

“You put small holes around the shoulder about the size of your pinky nail,” Gasbarro said. “Put a camera to the joint and use tools in and out of the other holes to manipulate these balloons, the rotator cuff, whatever you’re fixing.”

It’s a new tool to help patients find relief. Ballon spacers can be used in patients older than 65 without arthritis who can still elevate their arm above the level of their chin.

More: Your Health

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