Saving a lifestyle
EAGLE COUNTY – Dr. Ferdinand Liotta didn’t save Arlene Quenon’s life. But he may have saved her lifestyle.On May 2 Quenon underwent rotator cuff surgery and was simultaneously fitted with a revolutionary new implant called a HemiCAP in her right shoulder. The innovative technology – this is the first time it has been used for shoulder surgery in Colorado – should allow the Eagle resident to live the rest of her life free of shoulder pain and keep her doing the things she loves.A lifetime of activity – from tennis to golf to fishing to skiing – had left Quenon’s shoulder in bad shape. Her problems began as a 16-year old when she broke her collarbone. That left her with a sloping shoulder she has had ever since.Quenon underwent shoulder surgery in Vail 1997 with Dr. Richard Hawkins.
“He said my shoulder looked pretty banged up from all my activities over the years,” Quenon says.He also found bone spurs and arthritis in Quenon’s shoulder. But after the operation, Quenon continued her active lifestyle with little more than minor irritation and occasional flare-ups. Playing with the boysQuenon, 70, calls herself a competitor. She plays tennis with her husband, Max, and her sons. She has no problem playing with the “big boys,” she says, but something changed after a match in January. “We were on a vacation to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary, and I was playing tennis with my husband and two sons,” Quenon says. “We had some pretty long games. When I sat down on the bench after the game, I had the worst pain in my arm.”
Quenon disregarded the pain at the time; but she had unknowingly ruptured a muscle in her arm. The real pain would come in the following weeks as that muscle retracted. On a cross-country skiing trip two months later, the problem got worse. Quenon could not use her right arm, she says.”By the time I went to Dr. Liotta there wasn’t any strength left in my arm,” Quenon says. She needed surgery. Along with a damaged rotator cuff, Quenon also had arthritis and cartilage damage in her shoulder. “Arthritis is a tough disease,” says Liotta, an orthopedic surgeon with Orthopedic Associates of Aspen and Glenwood Springs. “When I talk about arthritis, I am talking about wear,” he says. “It’s like a gear in a car that gets loose and starts rubbing over the years. In people, that wear manifests itself in loss of motion, discomfort and weakness.”Despite the risks, Quenon decided to have surgery. “I told Dr. Liotta, ‘If I can’t play golf or tennis or ski, I don’t want to live like that,'” she says. “I was willing to do whatever it took.”
‘A lot of misery’Quenon was initially scheduled for a standard shoulder replacement surgery. According to Liotta, that usually means at least a couple of days in the hospital, and “a lot of misery.”Then, one week before Quenon’s appointment for surgery, Liotta was called by a representative from Arthrosurface Inc., a company that develops treatments for joint disease. Their flagship product: “The HemiCAP system.”The system repairs cartilage damage in a manner far less invasive than a total shoulder replacement procedure. The surgery can be done with two or three incisions; and allows the surgeon to cut away less bone than in a full replacement operation.
“When we look at people in Arlene’s age group, it’s not that we will make her super human,” says Liotta, “But it will help her with pain. The secondary benefit is increased function in the joint. If we get more than that out of it, it’s a bonus.”Liotta did not seek out the implant for Quenon, he just happened to be in the right place at the right time. “I was fortunate to be the first one to do it in Colorado because I had a rep with a product, and a patient willing to try it,” says Liotta.Activity ahead”When I first got up (after surgery) and looked in the mirror, I couldn’t believe it,” says Quenon. “It was the first time my shoulders were level since I was 16. I was in less pain right away.”Quenon has been rehabbing her shoulder for over two months now. At Howard Head Sports Medicine Clinic in Eagle, Quenon was physical therapist Brady Baker’s first HemiCAP client.
“The protocol for this isn’t that much different from a standard rotator-cuff repair,” says Baker. The first six weeks consist of passive motion, and stretching. After six weeks, they begin adding resistance slowly to build strength back up.The prognosis for Quenon is favorable. In eight to 12 months, Quenon will be able to play golf and tennis, and cast a fishing rod. Her competitive nature came out during her therapy, says Baker, and it has helped her push through. “With any procedure like this, if you don’t take the rehab seriously you can back track in your recovery, and not heal correctly,” Baker says. “She has been a joy to work with. She is very committed.” Quenon has equally high praise for Baker. “It’s a small community, but we have great sports medicine here,” says Quenon. “They get people back to doing the things they love doing.”Vail, Colorado