Patient Stories

Christopher C. Annunziata, MD

It all began 20 years ago. Snowboarding at Vail, Milt slipped, flew into the air, and crashed hard onto his left shoulder. “I’m 6 foot 3 and weigh more than 200 pounds, so the force was pretty intense,” recalls the 40-year-old from Vienna. “My shoulder popped out the back and the bone was literally hanging from the socket. It was the worst pain I’d ever experienced in my life.” Milt went to the emergency room, where doctors put his upper arm bone back into his shoulder socket and advised him to rehab with physical therapy. 

Over the next two decades, Milt’s shoulder dislocations multiplied. Each time, his arm bone would pop out the back of his shoulder, a highly unusual condition known as posterior shoulder dislocation. Thefrequent dislocations eventually jeopardized the activity he loves best: training for and competing in triathlons and IRONMAN® events. He consulted OrthoVirginia surgeon Christopher Annunziata, MD, who diagnosed recurrent posterior shoulder instability, as well as significant bone loss due to repeated dislocations. Dr. Annunziata recommended a combined procedure: standard arthroscopic surgery to repair Milt’s labrum – the cuff of cartilage that provides stability around the shoulder joint – and open grafting to fix the bone defect. 

Milt brought the same level of determination to his recovery that he brings to his triathlon training. After six weeks in a sling to keep his shoulder immobilized, he began a rehabilitation program to restore range of motion, strength and flexibility. He gradually increased his activity level, from walking on a treadmill to jogging to riding a stationary bike. “I was really pushing the envelope, trying to get better as fast as I could. I didn’t want to sit around,” he says.  

Milt’s recovery was so far ahead of schedule that Dr. Annunziata cleared him to swim, bike,run and even lift weights at his three-month post-op visit. Milt spent the next few months focused on rebuilding his endurance. He hired his triathlon coach back to help him with full-on training for an IRONMAN® event in the fall. He’s indebted to Dr. Annunziata and the OrthoVirginia team for such a great outcome. “The entire thing could not have run more smoothly,” he says. “Dr. Annunziata laid out the situation and the treatment in the most professional manner. I felt completely confident going into surgery and now my shoulder feels awesome – everything is firmly in place.”