Balloon Spacers Rescue Rotator Cuffs


BALTIMORE, Md. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – Shoulder rotator cuff injuries are extremely painful for the patient and challenging for surgeons. If the injury is massive, doctors hope for a functional outcome using different surgical techniques. One new method is giving surgeons an additional way to repair the tear. Balloon Spacers

Every year, two million people experience a tear in their rotator cuff. Rotator cuffs surround the shoulder joint, keeping the upper arm bone firmly within the shoulder socket. Now, balloon spacers are providing surgeons much need help in the operating room.

Shoulder specialist at the Mercy Medical Center, Gregory Gasbarro, MD, explains, You put it in just as an unfilled balloon, think of it that way, and then you pump the fluid saline into it and it props open that space.”

(Read Full Interview)

Balloon spacers, recently approved by the FDA, come in different sizes, so Dr. Gasbarro determines the appropriate size of the balloon to fill the space.

“You put small holes around the shoulder, about the size of your pinky nail. Put a camera to the joint and use tools in and out of the other holes to manipulate these balloons, the rotator cuff, whatever you’re fixing,” Dr. Gasbarro further explains.

Balloon spacers can be used in patients older than 65 years without arthritis who can still elevate their arm above the level of their chin.

Contributors to this news report include: Donna Parker, Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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REPORT:       MB #5219

BACKGROUND: The rotator cuff is a group of tendons and muscles that surround the shoulder joint, keeping the head of the upper arm bone firmly within the shallow socket of the shoulder. A rotator cuff injury can cause a dull ache in the shoulder that becomes worse at night. Rotator cuff injuries are common and increase with age, though, these injuries may occur earlier in people who have jobs that require repeatedly performing overhead motions, such as painters and carpenters. Statistically, approximately 30% of adults over 60 have a rotator injury, while 62% of adults over 80 have this injury.


SYMPTOMS AND DIAGNOSIS: A few symptoms you should pay attention to include a dull ache deep in the shoulder, sleep disturbance, difficulty reaching above your head, and/or arm weakness. Rotator cuff injuries can be diagnosed with an X-ray, ultrasound, or an MRI. During the physical exam, health care providers will press on different parts of the affected shoulder and move your arm into different positions to test the strength of the muscles around your shoulder and in your arms.


NEW TECHNOLOGY: The balloon spacer implant for rotator cuffs is a new solution for the arthroscopic treatment of massive irreparable rotator cuff tears. It involves placement of a biodegradable implantable balloon into the subacromial space of the shoulder. The purpose of the spacer is to help heal ruptured or torn rotator cuff muscles following rotator cuff repair and to decrease friction and enable smooth movement of the humeral head against the acromion.



Dan Collins

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Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Dr. Gregory Gasbarro, Shoulder Specialist

Read the entire Q&A