Background and Purpose: Scapular muscle detachment is a rare orthopedic problem that has been described in the literature in patients following traumatic events involving traction, direct trauma, or a motor vehicle accident. The purpose of this case report is to describe the post-operative rehabilitation following scapular muscle reattachment surgery. Unique to this case report is the patient's perspective, an orthopedic physical therapist with 25 years of experience.

Case Description: A 47-year-old female physical therapist experienced a traction injury to bilateral upper extremities during a medical procedure resulting in bilateral rhomboid, and bilateral lower trapezius muscles were detached from the medial scapular border. Reconstruction of the left scapulothoracic musculature occurred five and one-half years post-injury with the right repaired one year later. This case report describes the rehabilitation program that took one-year to recover for each arm with a period of protected motion for 16-weeks and gradual return to function as a manual physical therapist over a period of one-year.

Outcomes: The American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons (ASES) Standardized Assessment Form and pain-free range of motion was used pre- and postoperatively. Left and right shoulder pre-operative ASES scores were 68 and 72, respectively. At the one-year post-operative the left shoulder was rated at 82 and the right shoulder was 90. Pain-free range of motion was achieved in both arms by one year. Functional limitations requiring strength overhead were the slowest to return and were not completely back at one year following either surgery.

Discussion: Rehabilitation protocols for scapular muscle reattachment surgery are not commonly available to allow physical therapists to guide their patients and structure a rehabilitation program. This case report provides a sample pre-operative set of educational guidelines and a post-operative protocol for use after scapular reattachment surgery. This case report is unique because it offers a patient perspective who is a physical therapist and underwent this surgery twice. Therefore, providing insight on how to prepare for such a unique operation. The slow recovery is due to three issues 1) the prolonged time from injury to diagnosis created significant muscle wasting and muscular imbalance of surrounding tissues, 2) once this tissue was repaired it requires months of protection to recover, 3) the involved scapulothoracic muscle have to regain adequate strength as the foundation for upper extremity functions.

Level of evidence: Level 5.

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Published in International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, v. 16, issue 2.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND-4.0). View this license’s legal deed at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0 and legal code at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/legalcode for more information.

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burke_appendix_a.docx (19 kB)
Appendix A

burke_appendix_b.docx (28 kB)
Appendix B