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Health Spotlight: New method to fix tears in rotator cuffs

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Every year, two million people experience a tear in their rotator cuff, which surrounds the shoulder joint and keeps the humerus bone secured inside the shoulder socket.

Shoulder rotator cuff injuries are extremely painful for the patient, and can also be challenging for surgeons. But surgeons have started using a new method to provide much-needed help in the operating room: Balloons.

Ballon spacers, recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration, come in different sizes, so doctors can determine which balloon is best suited to fill the space.

“You put it in just as an unfilled balloon, think of it that way, and then you pump the fluid saline into it and it props open that space,” said Dr. Gregory Gasbarro, medical director of the Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore.

Gasbarro also says after the balloon is inserted, a camera is placed near the joint being operated on. Then, tools can be used to manipulate the balloons, the rotator cuff, and anything else needed.

Balloon spacers can be used in patients older than 65 years without arthritis who can still elevate their arm above the level of their chin.