F.A.S.T. Procedure Helps Shoulder Patients Recover Quicker

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September 13, 2013

Tendon issues, such as tennis and golfer’s elbow, plantar fasciitis, swimmer’s shoulder, jumper’s knee, and Achilles tendonitis, can easily buy an athlete, or anyone for that matter, a year-long trip to the bench. 

However, thanks to the Focused Aspiration of Scar Tissue (FAST) procedure being done by Marcus Romanowski, MD, chief of orthopedics at Kenmore Mercy Hospital, Western New Yorkers are on the road to recovery in a matter of months. 

Minimally Invasive 10-Minute Treatment

Based on technology developed in collaboration with the Mayo Clinic, the FAST procedure is a minimally invasive treatment option for tendon and soft tissue injuries. 

According to Dr. Romanowski, “Tendon pain can be caused by a number of factors that have caused the tendon tissue to break down. This not only results in pain and weakness but can cause adhesions, or scar tissue, to develop between the tissue layers.”

Unlike conventional treatment methods, the FAST procedure replicates the goal of an open surgical procedure by removing the damaged tissue with minimal invasion.

When patient Anthony Moore was treated by Dr. Romanowski in June, the aptly named FAST procedure took only about ten minutes. When Moore walked out that day, he needed only an adhesive bandage to close the microincision.

What Happens During the FAST Procedure  

The FAST procedure is performed using local anesthetic to numb the area; patients are awake and alert. During the procedure, ultrasound imaging is used to identify the location of the scar tissue.  Once located, a small instrument-the size of a toothpick-is inserted into the damaged tendon. 

The instrument delivers ultrasonic energy specifically designed to cut, break up, and remove damaged tissue safely and quickly, without disturbing the surrounding healthy tendon tissue. 

Increased Mobility After Surgery

Moore explained that he hurt his left shoulder while in the military and over time the tendons had adhered to the bursa.  For years, he suffered with constant sharp pains and couldn’t lift anything above his head. “Within a few days after the surgery, I had increased mobility,” he said.

Candidates for FAST Treatment

Dr. Romanowski was the first surgeon in Western New York to use this procedure and is currently the only one using it for shoulders.

“Most of my FAST candidates are either middle-aged athletes who develop tendon problems or sedentary people who want to get back into shape and end up injuring themselves,” Dr. Romanowski said.  “By the time they come to me, they have tried all the familiar treatment options.”

Common treatment options such as rest, pain medication, cortisone injections, or physical therapy address the pain but not the damaged tissue, which is the source of the tendon pain.

“Those patients who fail to improve with these conservative measures are candidates for the FAST procedure,” added Dr. Romanowski.

While an open surgical procedure removes the damaged tissue, it also carries the risk of more complications and a longer recovery. There is also no presurgical testing required.