Rotator cuff injuries frequently occur in auto accidents. They are painful and can cause major disruption to your life. Over my 26 years or more of doing personal injury law, I’ve learned a lot about the shoulder and injuries to the shoulder. One recent case involved a client who got hit broadside by a vehicle whose driver took a left-hand turn directly in his path. The impact was right on the driver’s side door area. That kind of a T-bone collision at an intersection is a recipe for rotator cuff tears and shoulder injuries.
The shoulder is an interesting joint that has to do a lot of work to allow your arm to move backward and forward and up and down. If your rotator cuff is not working to let the joint move properly then things like lifting objects and reaching overhead, can be difficult or impossible certainly without pain.
Normally after a car crash with a serious shoulder injury, it’s pretty apparent that something is painful and wrong with the shoulder in the emergency room or near in time afterward. The emergency room may not realize how serious it is until the injury persists causing pain and dysfunction for days and weeks afterward. Often the diagnosis is made when the patient is sent for an MRI which can look at the soft tissues like tendons and ligaments in the shoulder, and the tear is discovered.
There is a large number of different muscles, tendons, and ligaments as well as bones that all meet in the shoulder. Any number of these structures can be torn. Often the tear, if more severe, is what’s called a through and through or complete tear. This means that the tendon in question has ruptured, and there are two loose ends. When that happens, the likelihood is there’s going to need to be surgery.
The operation for repair of a torn tendon in the rotator cuff is often an open procedure where they have to cut into the person’s body with a full longer incision to be able to get at the structures. Sometimes it can be done arthroscopically which means that they make a smaller incision and stick tools and video cameras in the holes. When the orthopedic surgeon goes into the shoulder they can see exactly what is ripped and how badly torn it is. There are various methods by which they reattach torn structures of the shoulder including using anchors, sutures, and screws.
Many times surgery will be successful in that it will decrease pain and increase range of motion of the shoulder joint. However, it is not uncommon that a second or even third surgery is necessary.
Sometimes the torn structure can’t be held together properly even after surgery and then the failed surgery or re-tear causes a second procedure to be necessary. This is often the case if the person who suffered the shoulder injury is older or if the tear is more extensive.
Ultimately, an injured shoulder may require future surgeries either total reconstructions or other procedures sometimes including artificial joints to have the person be able to use their arm normally. Any time you have surgery, there is some risk of infection and even death. However, people who undergo surgical correction of shoulder injuries usually are thankful they did because without it they really could not work or function normally in their daily living activities.
If you have suffered a rotator cuff injury or another injury in a car accident, due to the fault of another person, call us at (757) 455-0077.