Americans are hard on their shoulders. Each year in the United States, an estimated 250,000 surgeries are performed to correct shoulder problems ranging from compressed tendons, bone spurs and torn muscles to rotator cuff injuries and fractures.
Three Harrisonburg and Rockingham County residents are all too familiar with these types of shoulder problems. Fortunately, they found the help they needed close to home with Christopher DiPasquale, DO, of Sentara Orthopedic & Sports Medicine Specialists, who was able to correct their painful—and potentially crippling—shoulder injuries.
Dr. DiPasquale, who has practiced orthopedic surgery at Sentara RMH for eight years, operated on all three of these patients, and all are now enjoying life without the limitations they once experienced due to shoulder pain.
For years, shoulder pain had just been part of life for Barbara Morris. Even the slightest movement could be excruciating.
In 2017, however, she decided to seek help from Dr. DiPasquale, who recommended a right shoulder arthroscopy and rotator cuff repair (the rotator cuff is a group of four tendons that stabilize the shoulder joint and make it possible to move the shoulder in specific directions).
After her surgery, Morris spent six weeks with her arm in a sling, underwent two months of physical therapy and then completed a regimen of at-home exercises.
Although Morris did experience some improvement from the procedure, her relief was temporary, and her shoulder began to torment her once again. A re-evaluation with Dr. DiPasquale confirmed that her ongoing osteoarthritis had worsened. Thankfully, since her rotator cuff remained intact after the initial repair, she was a candidate for total shoulder replacement surgery, which Dr. DiPasquale performed in November 2018.
“Dr. DiPasquale is a great orthopedic surgeon,” says Morris. “He did the surgery flawlessly and took exceptionally good care of me afterwards. He put my mind at ease, and I trust him completely.”
Combined with a course of physical therapy, the surgery has finally given Morris lasting relief. She says she diligently performed the home exercises she was assigned and never missed a physical therapy session. And she can’t say enough good about ice.
“If there’s one bit of advice I would give to anyone who is looking at a shoulder replacement, it’s ice, ice, ice,” she says. “Even after Dr. DiPasquale released me, even after the physical therapy and even after I was done with home exercises, I continued to ice my shoulder. I believe that was one of the most important things that helped me in my recovery.”
Morris notes that while she is still working on stretching exercises, she has regained about 95 percent of the usage of her right shoulder.
“It’s all because of Dr. DiPasquale—and because I did what I was told to do!” she says.
The rotator cuff in Patricia Carr’s left shoulder had failed to a point beyond repair. Her shoulder problems were nothing new, beginning with a fall some years earlier that had required surgery to repair a damaged rotator cuff. However, she became a bit alarmed when she began to experience increased pain and decreased range of motion in her shoulder.
In early 2016 Carr, of Harrisonburg, went to see Dr. DiPasquale, and an X-ray showed a complete deterioration of her rotator cuff. Without hope of a successful repair, Dr. DiPasquale recommended a procedure known as complete reverse shoulder replacement.
Essentially the opposite of a traditional shoulder replacement, reverse shoulder replacement surgery is used to treat patients who have severe arthritic damage along with large, retracted rotator cuff tears. Unlike the normal procedure, reverse shoulder replacement involves replacing the ball at the top of the upper arm bone (humerus) with a plastic socket, as well as replacing the shoulder socket (glenoid) with a metal ball, essentially reversing the shoulder’s anatomy. This method allows the arm to be moved primarily by the deltoid muscle, instead of by the rotator cuff.
Carr’s March 2016 surgery went smoothly, as did her three days in the hospital afterwards.
Reflecting on her experience, Carr is appreciative of both Dr. DiPasquale and physician assistant Jennifer Bruno. She says Bruno and Dr. DiPasquale worked together “like a well-oiled machine” to give her complete, personalized care.
“One of them just picks up where the other leaves off,” says Carr. “They’re a real team, and the care they gave me was superb.”
Since there was no one to provide postoperative care at home, Carr went from Sentara RMH to the Virginia Mennonite Retirement Center for two weeks, where she received interim care.
“I went to therapy for two months and also followed a regimen of exercises at home,” she says. “I’m a great believer in rehab and in doing what they tell you to do. It hurt like the dickens at first, but I stayed with it, and pretty soon I wasn’t in any pain at all. I had a prescription for pain medication, but I only needed it for a short time. After that, Tylenol worked just fine.”
Since her recovery and rehab, Carr hasn’t had a bit of trouble with her new shoulder.
“It doesn’t even squeak when it gets wet,” she says with a laugh. “I’m very happy with the care I received at Sentara RMH—before, during and after surgery. And as far as I’m concerned, Jen and Dr. DiPasquale walk on water!
Linda Covington of Harrisonburg remembers Dec. 13, 2017, with crystal clarity. That was the day she went to a local crafts store, got out of her car and tripped over a concrete parking stop.
“It was really cold and gray that day, and sometimes those concrete blocks blend in with the asphalt,” says Covington. “I hit that asphalt on my right shoulder, and I hit it hard.”
Experiencing excruciating pain, Covington drove herself to Sentara RMH.
“I thought I had dislocated my shoulder,” she remembers. “When the technologist who took my X-ray came in, she told me I’d done more than that—it seems I’d broken several bones.”
Dealing with fractures of this kind is one of Dr. DiPasquale’s specialties. Due to the type of fracture Covington sustained, as well as her age, she was a candidate for reverse shoulder replacement. After a waiting period to help reduce the risk of bleeding during surgery, Covington underwent the procedure on Dec. 26.
The operation went off without a hitch, she says, but the recovery process was long and difficult.
“The hardest thing was not being able to sleep,” recalls Covington. “For a good four months I didn’t sleep well at night—I had to sleep in a chair because I couldn’t lie down. But I really didn’t have any problems other than that. To help speed my recovery along, I did what Dr. DiPasquale and the physical therapists told me to do.”
Covington says that prior to her fall, she had exercised for years, walking and even lifting weights. She believes her fitness level, as well as her diligence in doing her at-home exercises, helped her make a good recovery.
“I got sick and tired of doing those exercises twice a day, but I did them,” she says. “You simply have to do what they tell you to do. It’s the only way you can recover and get back to normal.”
Covington says she has complete faith in Dr. DiPasquale, his staff and the Sentara RMH Orthopedic Center.
“I have nothing but wonderful things to say about them,” she adds.
Meet Dr. Christopher DiPasquale
Orthopedic surgeon Christopher DiPasquale, DO, specializes in shoulder surgery, including shoulder replacements, and in the treatment of fractures.
“One of the reasons our patients get first-rate care is that we provide them access to the most current technology,” says Dr. DiPasquale. “Across the board—not just from an orthopedic standpoint—all the services provided at Sentara RMH are exceptional. I enjoy working with a great medical staff, and the hospital’s administration supports us in our mission by providing the tools we need to give our patients the best care possible.”
Board certified by the American Osteopathic Academy of Orthopedic Surgery, Dr. DiPasquale joined the Sentara RMH medical staff in 2011.
Meet Jennifer Bruno, PA-C
Physician assistant Jennifer Bruno has been working closely with Dr. DiPasquale for the past 15 years. The two previously worked together at Mountain Valley Orthopedics in the Poconos of Pennsylvania, and a year after Dr. DiPasquale moved to Sentara RMH, he invited Bruno to join him in his new practice.
Bruno received her master of science degree from Lock Haven University in Lock Haven, Pa., in 2003. She is board certified by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants.
Working with Dr. DiPasquale, Bruno sees and assesses patients, prescribes medications, assists in surgery, makes rounds on patients in the hospital, and follows them as outpatients. When visiting patients, she and Dr. DiPasquale deliberately alternate, so their patients can see both of them and experience the team approach that is at the core of their practice.
“I want patients to know that as a physician assistant, I am a direct extension of Dr. DiPasquale,” says Bruno. “He and I are a team, working collaboratively—not just with each other—but with everyone in the orthopedics program at Sentara RMH.”