Patient Stories

David J. Novak, MD

All her life, Millie has been active - raising six children, bowling in a league, even skating in the roller derby 60 years ago. But when the 81-year-old from Chantilly began experiencing difficulty raising her arms to complete simple tasks such as brushing her hair or reaching up to a shelf, she knew something was wrong. Her limited range of motion also made it hard to do her office job at Louise Archer Elementary School in Vienna.

Millie consulted OrthoVirginia surgeon David Novak, MD, who diagnosed advanced osteoarthritis in both her shoulders. When several months of cortisone shots failed to alleviate her symptoms, she opted for a total shoulder replacement on her left side.

This procedure involves replacing the arthritic joint surfaces with a metal and plastic implant. Patients with end-stage arthritis and intact rotator cuff tendons, who no longer respond to conservative treatment - such as NSAIDs, cortisone or physical therapy - are good candidates.

The surgery restored function to Millie's left shoulder and she was able to use that arm to drive and perform basic activities at work. But within a year she had returned to Dr. Novak with worsening symptoms on her right side. This time, standard total shoulder replacement was not an option; the damage was too severe. Dr. Novak suggested something different: reverse total shoulder replacement.

In this procedure, the socket and metal ball are switched. Afterwards, patients use their deltoid muscle, instead of their rotator cuff, to lift their arm overhead. Candidates for reverse total shoulder replacement include patients with unrepairable rotator cuff tears, no range of motion in the shoulder joint and severe shoulder fractures. Dr. Novak is among just a handful of surgeons in the area who perform this advanced procedure.

Following both of her surgeries, Millie wore a sling for four weeks. She spent two months working with a physical therapist on exercises to regain range of motion and strengthen her shoulder joint. Now, she's able to perform the simple, everyday activities she couldn't do before, such as holding a hairdryer over her head or reaching up to sort the mail at work.

She praises Dr. Novak's skill and is grateful to have a resource such as OrthoVirginia close to home. "Dr. Novak always took the time to clearly explain everything that was going on, he visited me in the hospital and he took excellent care of me," she says.

I just think he's the best, and everyone at OrthoVirginia, too. They were all very good to me.