By Drew Munhausen
After receiving steroid injections to relieve pain in her left shoulder, Maryann Tumlinson knew that this wasn’t the solution she could rely on. Tumlinson had been experiencing pain in her shoulder since April 2018.
“Lifting and holding my little great grandchildren was becoming extremely difficult,” Tumlinson said. “I began to have trouble sleeping and having problems just raising my arm. I even endured an extremely painful mammogram in 2019 because I couldn’t properly lift my arm for all of the pictures the technician needed. I was out of options and knew I needed to seek help.”
Her primary care physician referred her to Eric Peter Sabonghy, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon with McGovern Medical School at UTHealth and an attending surgeon with Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center. He sees patients at UT Physicians Orthopedics at Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute-Memorial City.
Dr. Sabonghy knew immediately that Tumlinson’s shoulder would require a reverse total shoulder replacement, better known as a reverse shoulder arthroplasty. In many cases, chronic shoulder pain caused by degenerative disorders such as osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis will require surgical intervention up to and including shoulder replacement. Thanks to new advances in surgical techniques and materials, reverse shoulder replacement is a recent development that can add stability to the shoulder and increase range of motion with great improvements in quality of life.
“I always tell patients and their families that about 50% of our patients think the pain from surgery is much less than the pain from the arthritis,” said Dr. Sabonghy. “For shoulder replacement patients, the arthritis is usually really advanced by the time they need surgery.”
Dr. Sabonghy adds that most patients say they wished they had not waited to have surgery. The unrelenting arthritic pain can lead to many things including depression, lack of sleep, irritability, and heavy doses of medication. The overall experience of 95% of patients is great with significant relief of pain and much better function.
Tumlinson’s procedure took place on January 28, 2020, nearly two years after she recalls the pain starting.
“It was so much easier than I expected. The pain level was kept in control and it wasn’t long before I didn’t need pain medication any longer,” Tumlinson said. “I am now able to play volleyball in the swimming pool without pain. I am able to do anything I need or want to do. I often visit my daughter in West Texas, where most of my family members have large pickup trucks. I now can pull myself up without any pain or issue with my shoulder.”
Following her procedure, Tumlinson had physical therapy with Sean Schulte, Board Certified Sports Clinical Specialist with Memorial Hermann Sports Medicine & Rehabilitation-South Katy.
“Ms. Tumlinson had a great attitude throughout her physical therapy and did all that was asked of her,” Schulte said. “She has functional mobility and strength in her shoulder and seems to be very pleased with that. Getting clients back to their desired activities is something that drives us and we take great pride in our outcomes.”
Tumlinson says she is extremely happy that she decided to go through with the surgery.
“Sometimes people ask me how my shoulder is feeling, and I tell them I honestly forget I had surgery. I credit all of the success to my surgeon and my physical therapy team,” Tumlinson said.