By Erin K. Blakeley, Shoulder1 Staff
Each year, hundreds of thousands of Americans complain of chronic shoulder pain. The likely culprit? Instability, or ligaments that fail to hold the bones of the shoulder in its proper place. Shoulder instability allows the shoulder bone to slide down out of alignment, which causes throbbing pain.
A new innovation in surgery may soon supplant more traditional surgical methods. Utilizing the heat from radio waves, surgeons are able to repair injured joints, such as the shoulder, without the extensive invasiveness of more traditional methods.
Radio wave surgery uses heat from radio waves to heat and shrink loose tissue around the shoulder. The theory behind the procedure is simple: the heat shrinks the tissue, and the joint heals in the shrunken position, thus tightening the joint tissue—without destroying it.
Surgeons perform the procedure, called termed thermal shrinkage, under local or general anesthesia. After making two small incisions, they insert a heat probe and camera into the shoulder. By carefully maneuvering the tip of the probe along the tissue in the joint, they are able to shrink damaged or loose ligaments.
The advantages of thermal shrinkage are many. The patient receives only a few small incisions, as opposed to the larger incisions traditional surgery requires. Moreover, traditional methods of surgery require an overnight hospital stay, stitches and staple to hold the joint in proper alignment, and a long recovery time. Utilizing the radio wave technology, patients have had quick recovery times. Finally, the cost of thermal shrinkage is about half the other procedures, making it a popular choice among patients.
Shoulder instability can affect people for a number of different reasons. Injury to the joint may cause stretching in the ligaments. Some people are even born with less stable joints than others. There are several ways a patient can tell if their shoulder pain comes from instability. Dislocation and subluxation, or having the shoulder slip out of its socket, are the telltale signs. If either happens frequently, instability is usually to blame. Usually, a substantial blow to the shoulder can be identified as the start of the condition. Also, if the patient feels the shoulder suddenly give way or describes it as “unreliable,” this may mark instability.
While using radio waves to heat and shrink damaged tissue may be part of the future of joint care, too few studies have take place at this point to fully know the results. At this point, no long-term studies have been completed, so while there has been tremendous short-term success with the procedure, the long-term results remain unknown.
MSNBC, Radio Waves Offer New Hope For Shoulder Pain