Pain pump malfunction saves officer’s right shoulder

When a 37-year-old canine officer injured both of her shoulders after a fall at work, she sought shoulder surgery to fix her injuries and to relieve the pain she suffered. Multiple procedures were performed on both shoulders, most of which I can’t even pronounce, and postoperative pain pumps were administered to both shoulders following the surgery.  The problems she suffered in the future were not something she had bargained for.
After both pain pumps were implanted in the shoulders, the right sided pump did not function properly, causing the device to leak outside of her shoulder until it was removed. Leaking pain medication outside the shoulder does not sound like it would be good for the shoulder. But did this leak actually save her right shoulder?

Once the pain pumps were removed, the officer continued to have stiffness, but only in her left shoulder. The continued stiffness and pain caused her to have two additional surgeries on her left shoulder, hoping these surgeries would be the end to her shoulder problems. But when the second surgery was performed, the doctors noticed that the articular cartilage in her shoulder was nearly gone. Even after the second surgery, her left shoulder was still stiff and still in pain.

A physical examination was given to the officer post surgeries to test the flexibility and rotation of her shoulders. The difference between the movement of the right and left shoulder was staggering. The right shoulder (the one in which the pain pump leaked) had 140 degrees of forward elevation, 60 degrees of external rotation and internal rotation of T12. The left shoulder was extremely stiff and only had a 30 degree arc of rotation and flexion/extension.  Even if you do not understand medical jargon, these numbers are quite different.

The officer was given multiple cortisone injections, five viscosupplementation injections, physical therapy and narcotics, all of which did nothing to alleviate her pain and stiffness.  With little hope of her left shoulder ever being the same, the officer is currently considering her options of what to do next.

The article from UW Medicine, a publication of the Univeristy of Washington School of Medicine, shows in this particular case how the right shoulder that did not receive the pain medication did not show any problems post surgery. However, the left shoulder that did receive the pain medication is left with little to no cartilage and stiffness that might not ever go away. With her symptoms, the officer may suffer from Postarthroscopic Glenohumeral Chondrolysis (PAGCL), an extremely painful condition involving the deterioration of cartilage in the shoulder joint.

PAGCL has been linked to numerous cases where pain pumps were inserted after shoulder surgeries and is the most common complication following should surgeries, according to The American Journal of Sports Medicine. Unfortunately, the only treatment for PAGCL is more surgeries, and they cannot be arthroscopic.

When and if you decide on shoulder surgery, know the risks and outcomes of using a pain pump. A small device used to alleviate pain post surgery may result in more surgeries and never-ending shoulder problems.