Three decades ago, Chuck Short dislocated his shoulder joint while pole-vaulting. The nagging pain and limited use eventually led his doctors to recommend a total shoulder replacement. Much had changed in the 30 years since Short originally injured his shoulder. Back then, he would nave needed to stay in the hospital for three to five days. But thanks to innovations in medical technology, Short was able to go home a mere two hours after surgery. The reason? A pain pump that rested outside his body but had a tiny catheter that fed into his wound site. The pump administered gradual doses of Novocaine into his shoulder for up to 72 hours.
The pain pumps eliminate the need for narcotics and costly hospital stays, and revolutionized pain management for procedures such as shoulder surgery. However, pain pumps didn’t always prove to be the best solution.
The pain pumps were first approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with the catheters feeding into the shoulder tissue. However, in the 1990s, the manufacturers of pain pumps asked the FDA to approve an alternative use – placing the catheters directly into the shoulder joint. The FDA required more testing before it would approve such a use. Rather than following proper protocol and running tests on the alternative use, the device manufacturers began advising surgeons to place the catheters in the shoulder joint.
Months and years later, doctors began noticing patients who had had shoulder surgery were beginning to suffer from a serious and debilitating condition known as chondrolysis in which the cartilage in the joint is worn away. Those doctors began to make the connection between patients with chondrolysis and the alternative use of the pain pumps.
Today, manufacturers of pain pumps are facing hundreds of lawsuits from people who have been injured by the devices. If you or a loved one has had shoulder surgery and now suffer from pain, weakness in the shoulder, decreased range of motion in the shoulder, or weakness in the shoulder, you may have a claim against the manufacturer.