Whether he’s riding horses around his acreage near
Westlock, or building fences and sheds under the big Alberta sky, Douglas
Gilroyed does not like to be confined, especially by a sling after shoulder
surgery. That is what made this very active retiree the perfect choice to take
part in research about the best recovery strategy for patients who undergo rotator
rehabilitation following the procedure requires strict immobilization in a
sling with no active motion of the shoulder for four to six weeks. However, Dr.
Robert Balyk, Chief of Orthopedics at the Grey Nuns Community Hospital, often
observed that the “cheaters”—those who didn’t wear their slings as instructed—did, indeed, prosper. They appeared to enjoy a better quality of life and an
improved range of motion sooner than patients who did.
benefits of early active motion led us to question whether strict
immobilization [after surgery] was truly required,” says Robert. He and his
colleague Dr. David Sheps, Facility Medical Director at the Sturgeon Community
Hospital in St. Albert, wanted to research the validity of this hypothesis.
was one of 189 patients who participated in a study to assess the effects of
early mobilization compared with standard rehabilitation following the
“I wore the sling home; after that I never wore it,” says Douglas, who received surgery on both shoulders. He was instructed to do his usual daily activities as long as there was no pain and to avoid heavy lifting for the first three months.
undergoing rotator cuff repair, the study patients were assigned, at random, to
either adopt early mobilization or standard rehabilitation. They underwent assessments
six weeks after the procedure and had checkups at six, 12 and 24 months.
the first assessment, patients who began early active motion showed
significantly better range of motion than those who wore their slings for six
24 months, early mobilization did not result in any long-term complications.
There were no differences in healing or re-tear rates, the surgeons’ biggest
“Although the final outcome was the same in both groups, recovery was quicker in the early mobilization group,” says David. “It may make sense to allow patients to remove their slings sooner."
research has garnered international attention. Last year at the annual meeting
of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, the two doctors' groundbreaking
research was chosen as one of 15 papers most likely to change clinical practice
in the next two to three years.
Have a story to share about health care? An idea for an article? We value all contributions.