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Tandem Shoulder Surgery

Posted by Lake Health on Jun 17, 2020 10:23:22 AM

It was Friday, December 14, 2018. While walking in a parking lot, Kathy Vinci’s foot twisted over the rolling, loose rocks she tried to kick out of her path. Realizing she was falling and sure to hit the ground face first, she instantly reacted, lifting her arms, bracing for the impact. Her elbows hit the ground with even force, at the same time. She couldn’t move.  

An ambulance transported her to the West Medical Center ED where on-call orthopedic surgeon John Bucchieri, MD, discovered that both of her shoulders were broken and would require surgery to repair the damage. Admitted to a hospital room to await surgery, she was without the use of either arm and unable to do anything for herself.

“Dr. Bucchieri told me that he’d had patients with two broken arms or two broken wrists, but never someone with two broken shoulders at the same time,” says Kathy.


Different injuries, different repairs

Orthopedic repair and reconstruction techniques are selected for patients based on the nature of their fractures. Shoulder joint replacement is performed when the fracture is considered not reconstructable or highly likely to fail. Realignment and stabilization with plates and screws is the preferred treatment with a reconstructable fracture.

Dr. Bucchieri and orthopedic partner Michael Weisburger, MD, discussed Kathy’s condition. Her left shoulder had an extremely severe fracture with rotator cuff damage that required a reverse shoulder joint replacement to regain the best possible motion, function and rotation. Her right shoulder, although also severely fractured, was repairable with plates and screws, preserving her natural shoulder joint.

“Shoulder fractures can be complex injuries and there are many treatment options that can lead to good outcomes, but it’s important to find the best treatment for each situation,” explains Dr. Weisburger.

On Sunday, just two days after the fall, Dr. Bucchieri performed Kathy’s left shoulder surgery. The procedure replaced the ball and socket joint, but reversed their positions from their natural physiology. The cup of the socket was placed on the top of her humerus (arm bone) and the ball was placed over her former shoulder socket. Her upper arm’s deltoid muscle, instead of the rotator cuff, acts to power and position her arm.

After two days to allow for initial recovery, on Wednesday, Dr. Weisburger surgically aligned the fractured pieces of Kathy’s right shoulder, stabilized them with a large metal plate and screws, sutured damaged tendons and repaired right rotator cuff damage found during the surgery.

“I really felt like I was in good hands,” Kathy says. “They were great docs, the nurses did everything for me, and I had no pain.”


Discharged from the hospital, Kathy spent the next four weeks recuperating at a rehabilitation facility. She began extensive physical therapy provided by Lake Health therapists who, understanding her anxiety, were compassionate and patient.

At home, she could do nothing for herself. A double sling held both of her arms. Family and friends bathed, dressed and fed her. Her generous coworkers collected money for the home delivery of three prepared meals a day for nearly a month. But gradually she gained motion and strength. Finally, in late March 2019, she returned to her job as an executive management assistant, so thankful for everyone who supported and helped her through those weeks and months.  

“Bones heal,” says Kathy. “There’s light at the end of the tunnel. I can’t do everything I used to do, but I’m not letting that get the best of me.”

“Fractures can be complicated and treatment should be individualized for each patient. We were able to work as a team to provide the best possible outcome for Kathy.” – John Bucchieri, MD

Meet the doctors

Photo of Dr. John Bucchieri.

John Bucchieri, MD
Offices: Willoughby, 440-942-1050; Mentor, 440-352-1711

Photo of Dr. Michael Weisburger.

Michael Weisburger, MD
Offices: Willoughby, 440-942-1050; Mentor, 440-352-1711

Topics: Orthopedics, Physical Therapy, Patient Stories