Great Results with Arthroscopic Rotator Cuff Repair

William T. Pennington, M.D.
The Orthopedic Institute of Wisconsin

When your job involves taking care of multiple children under the age of ten, the thought of having major surgery and months of physical therapy is
devastating. That’s exactly what Jackson resident Lisa Borisch faced four years ago when she tore the rotator cuff in her right shoulder. But thanks to William Pennington, MD, a shoulder and knee specialist with Aurora Health Care in Washington County, Lisa had surgery on a Friday and was caring for kids the following Monday.

“When I first hurt myself, I went to an orthopedic surgeon in another town who wanted to cut my shoulder from top to bottom,” recalls Lisa. “Although I was in a lot of pain, I really didn’t want to go through that operation if I didn’t have to. I tried physical therapy, and one day, a therapist suggested I make an appointment with a new specialist in Washington County. That was my lucky day.”

At that time, Dr. Pennington had just completed a one-year fellowship in arthroscopic shoulder surgery with the physician who actually pioneered the technique. Although Dr. Pennington’s primary practice location was at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee, he and several colleagues in orthopedics had begun bringing their services to Aurora Health Care facilities in Washington County. At Aurora Medical Center in Hartford, they now perform the same state-of-the-art surgeries they offer at St. Luke’s… like arthroscopic rotator cuff repair.

As a result of his training and experience, Dr. Pennington is one of few physicians in Wisconsin who performs arthroscopic rotator cuff repairs. With this minimally invasive approach to surgery, the physician makes four quarter-inch-size incisions instead of a long, deep incision across the top of the shoulder and through the muscles to get to the site of the injury. The surgical instrument is an “arthroscope,” a pencil-thin tool equipped with a light and camera lens that projects images inside the shoulder onto an overhead monitor while the surgeon performs the needed repairs. It’s the same goal as open surgery, but there is less trauma to surrounding muscles and tissue. Patients experience a faster, more comfortable recovery with less scarring both inside and out. Dr. Pennington feels that the arthroscopic technique also allows surgeons to get a better look at all sides of the rotator cuff tear. “With an open incision, we don’t get that three-dimensional view of the true anatomy,” he says.

“We have seen excellent outcomes with Dr. Pennington’s arthroscopic rotator repair,” says Rose Nelson, a physical therapist and supervisor of the Aurora Rehabilitation Center in Hartford. “Patients come into rehab with much better range of motion and they seem to move through the rehab process quicker.”

Lisa is a great example of arthroscopic surgical results withstanding the test of time. “It’s been four years since my surgery and I’ve had no trouble at all keeping up with my childcare children,” says Lisa. “I have full mobility of my shoulder and no pain whatsoever. I can push, pull, lift and carry. I can even cross monkey bars with the kids!”


This web site contains general medical information and does not replace the medical advice of your physician. If you have questions about your medical condition or exercises, ask your doctor or health care provider.