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Shoulder surgery provides relief for Eau Claire woman

​​​​​​​Timing can be everything. This is especially true with joint surgery. 

Emma Banovich, Eau Claire Emma Banovich, Eau Claire
Although joint pain and stiffness can be good gauges as to when surgery is needed, waiting too long can impact your treatment options. After undergoing shoulder surgery last year, Emma Banovich, 73, Eau Claire, advises not to put it off. 

Banovich had trouble with her shoulder for more than 20 years. 

"The first problem happened years ago," she said. "My shoulder locked, and it was so painful." Over time the pain gradually worsened. "I tried hard not to have the surgery. But I got tired of complaining about it."

For patients later in life, the need for shoulder surgery may not be caused by a specific activity or event, such as a fall. Despite working at an early age as a farm laborer in cotton and watermelon fields and pitching for her high school softball team, these activities may not have affected Banovich's need for shoulder surgery.

"Arthritis of the shoulder, in varying forms, tends to be the culprit in patients beyond age 50," said Orthopedic Surgeon Todd Schubkegel, M.D., shoulder and elbow specialist at Marshfield Clinic Eau Claire Center. 

"Emma has a lot of difficulty with arthritis combined with rotator cuff problems. Like many people, she started with injection treatments to reduce pain and inflammation. Eventually those treatments are no longer effective and a surgical approach needs to be considered."

Banovich's options were affected by her age, the physical framework and condition of her shoulder, and her expectations for its function after surgery. She's no stranger to joint surgery, having had her left hip replaced and a prior foot surgery.

"I had a lot of trouble doing almost everything because I'm right-handed," she said. "I couldn't clean my house, because I couldn't lift anything. Driving was even difficult."

The pain finally pushed her to proceed with the surgery. 

Partial shoulder replacement and rotator cuff repair.

"The arthritic ball portion of her right shoulder was replaced but the socket was left intact," Dr. Schubkegel said. "The rotator cuff is a tendon and muscle group that supports the shoulder. Combining the partial replacement with the rotator cuff repair, allows for an improved range of motion for the joint. We were aiming to reduce her pain and improve her function, while limiting the activity restrictions expected following more aggressive reconstruction options."

Trends indicate the number of shoulder surgeries is increasing.

"I'd attribute this to increasing patient awareness of treatment options rather than to arthritis occurring more frequently," Dr. Schubkegel said. "Arthritis can begin at various ages. What's important to know is that more treatment options for shoulder pain are available when shoulder problems are identified earlier."

Banovich can attest to this. Her recovery included physical therapy to regain as much flexibility as possible. "It was a good four months before I was able to take care of myself in the manner I wanted," she said. "Fortunately, I had lots of help and support from my daughter and her family, my friends and people from my church."

Today, Banovich has returned to her community service passions of counseling battered women and volunteering at The King's Closet, a faith-based boutique that provides donated clothes to individuals and families in need.

The advice she offers others living with joint pain and stiffness is telling. "I would have the surgery done again tomorrow if I had to," Banovich said. "Once it was done, the pain was gone."