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Jonathan’s AC Joint Revision Surgery Story

Posted on: February 13th, 2023 by Our Team

The Injury: AC joint injury

Jonathan Yau has been through quite the trouble to get his shoulder back into shape. After catching an icy edge and suffering a direct blow to his shoulder while snowboarding on New Years Eve in 2019, Yau hadn’t found what or more importantly, who he needed to repair it.

And he certainly did not foresee that it would take one botched surgery and a long-standing battle with his insurance company to restore his impaired shoulder.

It would take Yau almost an entire year to find the resolution he had been seeking.

“When I went to the doctor in Mammoth,” the popular skiing resort where Yau sustained the blow, “he told me it was a minor injury and to wait and see how it heals on its own,” said Yau.

He had torn the ligaments of his acromioclavicular (AC) joint, a joint critical for mobility and stability of the shoulder.

Yau visited another doctor when he returned to his hometown of Los Angeles days after his injury, who shared the earlier physician’s ease. Still, Yau was not convinced.

“My bone was sticking out,” said Yau. “There was discomfort in my shoulder that prevented me from doing anything more than bodyweight exercises.”

Before his injury, Yau was exceptionally active, regularly partaking in surfing, golfing, and weightlifting. Post-injury, he could barely sit at his computer and type without flinching in pain.

He waited six months before renouncing the earlier recommendations of inactivity and waiting. His pain was not subsiding as suggested, and he couldn’t get back to any of his favorite sports.

Yau found a doctor who seemed promising. He assured Yau that he could alleviate his pain and restore normal function in his shoulder through an AC joint reconstruction. However, its results were all too temporary.

“About two weeks after the surgery, the hardware popped and my bone was sticking out again,” said Yau. “I had a lot of nerve pain and my bone was clicking and grinding,” he continued.

So Yau sought other options.

Three months following the failed surgery and after extensive internet digging, he found Dr. Petrigliano whose “positivity, calmness, and kindness” was what Yau needed to revive hope.

“He gave me a lot of confidence when I was really broken up,” said Yau. “He said I should make a complete recovery and do everything I was doing before”, he continued.

Treatment: AC joint revision surgery

Dr. Petrigliano prescribed an AC joint revision surgery, using a more modern method with a higher success rate.

As Yau was on the precipice of envisioning a proper recovery and return to normal life, his insurance company interrupted his path to surgery. They denied coverage.

But the response from Dr. Petrigliano and his team was one that Yau had never encountered.

“Dr. Petrigliano and his whole team went above and beyond to provide documentation and to write all the letters to help my case get overturned,” said Yau.

After what seemed like a lost cause, the insurance company’s decision to refuse revision surgery was finally overturned three months later.

“He really pushed for me,” said Yau.

In November of 2020, almost a year after the injury, Yau received the revision surgery that would bring his shoulder back to life.

Dr. Petrigliano also included an arthroscopic surgery to ensure his rotator cuff wasn’t damaged. Yau recalled how he also mended the scar that he had been left with from the first surgery.

“I had never seen a doctor go to those lengths for me,” said Yau. “He never hesitated once,” he continued.

Recovery from AC joint revision surgery

Unlike his previous experience from the first surgery, Dr. Petrigliano didn’t rush him into physical therapy prematurely and allowed him to take a month of recovery. After ensuring progress in his healing, Yau then began physical therapy at the Meyer Institute of Sport (MIS), a facility partnered with Dr. Petrigliano and his team at USC’s Keck School of Medicine.

“I loved that Dr. Petrigliano was in close communication [with MIS],” said Yau. “He could immediately talk to all the physical therapists and there was no miscommunication,” a problem often encountered by patients when referred to distant facilities with little correspondence between physicians and physical therapists.

Yau continued his physical therapy for four months. Today, Yau is thankful to be living a life with sports and a pain-free shoulder. And what’s more, he said he hasn’t encountered any setbacks.

“Weightlifting was a huge thing I couldn’t do prior to the surgeries for a long time,” said Yau. “Now, I don’t have any limitations–I can lift as much as I want.” He is also golfing and surfing again.

Reflecting on his long road to recovery, Yau is relieved and grateful to be back in action. And perhaps less intense action too, while painlessly typing away at his computer, studying and preparing to launch into his new career as a software engineer.

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