Getting Her Swing Back

Local tennis enthusiast returns to center court after shoulder surgery for osteoarthritis

Pain is no match for Betsy Leavitt Stanford. When osteoarthritis threatened her ability to play tennis, the 77-year-old Arlington resident stayed in the game with shoulder replacement surgery. And she’s glad she did.

“Before surgery, my shoulder throbbed all the time and there was just no end to the pain, no matter what exercises I tried to do or how much I tried to lay off it,” recalls Stanford.

The aching and stiffness she felt in her right shoulder also affected her work as a realtor, a business she enjoys sharing with her daughter.

“The shoulder pain got in the way of driving,” Stanford says. “Using a car is a big part of my business and I got to where I couldn’t shift the gears. It was major that I had this done because I couldn’t do anything that my business entailed.”

Years of wear and tear had caused Stanford to develop osteoarthritis in her shoulder joint. The cartilage cushioning the bones in her shoulder had worn away, resulting in pain and stiffness that prevented her from doing the things she loves to do.

A Winning Shot

On the recommendation of two trusted friends, Stanford called Sameer Nagda, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Inova Mount Vernon Hospital, who specializes in shoulder surgery. Stanford explained to Dr. Nagda that she had tried many therapies to heal her painful shoulder, including steroid injections and physical therapy, but none of those treatments had resolved her problem. After examining Stanford’s shoulder, which included an MRI exam and a careful evaluation of her overall health, Dr. Nagda recommended shoulder replacement surgery.

For the first time in more than two years, Stanford felt confident that she could hit a winning return at the pain that had kept her off the tennis court.

“Dr. Nagda is a terrific guy,” she says. “He’s very reassuring. He’s a true professional at everything he does and he just has a very wonderful ability to communicate with patients.”

Team Approach

Stanford knew she had chosen the right doctor and the right medical team to fix her shoulder. Dr. Nagda at Inova Mount Vernon Hospital and his colleagues at two other Inova hospitals perform the most shoulder replacements in Northern Virginia, making them the most experienced orthopedic experts in the region. The multidisciplinary team of surgeons, physician assistants, nurses and physical therapists work together to provide superior outcomes for each individual patient.

“The team of surgeons in The Inova Shoulder Program are doing several hundred shoulder replacements a year,” says Dr. Nagda. “Studies have shown that with any joint, especially shoulder joint replacement, there is a decrease in complications and an increase in good outcomes at centers with higher volumes.”

In October 2012,  Dr. Nagda and his team repaired Stanford’s shoulder by removing the damaged cartilage in the joint and replacing it with an artificial implant specially designed to fit her anatomy.

“Compared to 10 years ago, we now have the ability to customize the shape and size of the implant to the patient,” says Dr. Nagda. “In addition to better implants, there have also been advances in the instrumentation used to perform the surgery, making the process more streamlined.”

Courtside Comeback

Stanford embarked on a physical therapy program one week following surgery at the Anderson Orthopedic Clinic where she went three times a week. Within just five months, her full range of motion was restored, she had regained strength in her shoulder and she was pain-free.

Now she and her husband enjoy traveling and spending time with friends. And best of all, her dream of being able to play tennis again came true.

“Now I can go back to playing the game I love,” says Stanford. “As far as my shoulder is concerned, there’s no pain at all. My surgery was just marvelous. I am very, very happy with the whole procedure.”

Fixing the Problem

Your shoulder is a large ball-and-socket joint that allows you to perform everyday tasks such as lifting and reaching for objects. Unlike your knee and hip, your shoulder doesn’t support your body weight, but the fact that it is more flexible than any other joint in the body makes it vulnerable to long-term wear and tear.

With 53,000 Americans opting for shoulder replacement each year, surgery has become an increasingly common solution. According to the Arthroscopy Association of North America, shoulder arthroplasty is the third most common joint replacement surgery, following knee and hip replacement.

You may be a candidate for shoulder replacement surgery if you have severe pain that gets in the way of routine activities such as brushing your teeth or driving, you are unable to sleep through the night due to pain in your shoulder, or you feel weakness or stiffness in your shoulder joint. Your doctor may recommend surgery after you’ve tried other therapies including anti-inflammatory medications, cortisone injections or physical therapy, with little or no improvement.

Learn more about the Inova Shoulder Replacement Program