Halifax-based surgeon helping athletes with revolutionary technique

Click to play video: 'Halifax doctor developing new way to get athletes back in the game'
Halifax doctor developing new way to get athletes back in the game
Fri, Dec 8: An injury can be a devastating blow to any young athlete, but a new technique developed by a Halifax-based Orthopedic surgeon is making it easier to get back in the game. Jennifer Grudic brings us the story of how it’s helped one New Brunswick hockey player – Dec 8, 2017

With the help of a Halifax-based orthopedic surgeon, one of the east coast’s hottest hockey prospects will be able to keep his career on track.

Jérémie Jacob, 16, of Moncton, N.B., was selected by the Saint John Sea Dogs in the 2017 QMJHL draft and is excited to get back on the ice.

“It means everything. It’s my passion. My dad played, my brother plays my uncle played — they all played high-level hockey and I just want to do the same as them,” he said.

In March, Jacob injured his shoulder when he fell playing hockey.

He now requires surgery, but with the assistance of a new technique engineered by Dr. Ivan Wong, Jacob’s comeback might be quicker than he could have imagined.

READ MORE: Get your hip replaced and walk the same day? Surgical technique makes it possible

Over the past five years, Wong and his team at the QEII Health Sciences Centre, have helped develop a more advanced take on the Latarjet technique, a surgical procedure originating from France.

Story continues below advertisement

The new method avoids cutting a large muscle in the shoulder — the subscapularis.

“This procedure is currently done in an open fashion which puts nerves and arteries at risk — about 20 to 40 per cent complication rate. We have demonstrated that we have zero nerve and vascular risks,” said Wong.

Wong and his team have also developed what they call the “Halifax Portal.”

Accessing the shoulder was quite dangerous due to the risk of cutting nerves. This new tool allows surgeons to carry out the surgery with minimal risk.

READ MORE: First in-utero spina bifida surgery performed in Canada

“I designed this portal by doing it backwards, called an inside-out technique, which means putting a blunt straight rod called a switching stick from the back of the shoulder and pushing it through the shoulder, above the subscapularis muscle, and lateral to the conjoined tendon,” said Wong.

“By doing this, the native muscle and tendon protect the nerves and vessels making this technique safe and avoids major complications.”

This advanced surgery has been proven to be particularly successful thus far on young, male athletes, winning two national awards.

Jacob’s older brother, Alex, underwent the same surgery a few years ago.

Story continues below advertisement
“[Alex] was in rehab for a bit but it was very successful and he hasn’t had any problems since,” said Jacob.

READ MORE: Brain surgery without breaking the skin a success at University of Calgary

Wong said when an athlete dislocates their shoulder, there is an 80 per cent chance of losing bone. He and his team use 3D printed models and CT imaging to detect bone loss in patients, making it easier for them to determine which type of surgery to perform.

“Now that we know that the current techniques of repairing soft tissue isn’t as successful long term, we’ve now been looking at other ways to modify this,” said Wong.

Wong is one of only a few doctors on the continent doing this type of surgery. He said that while it is more invasive than traditional techniques, it has proven to be effective.

He, along with Dr. Nathan Urquhart, have just submitted their results for publication to the American Journal of Sports Medicine. Wong said it shows that they were successful at preventing dislocations in patients who have failed their previous surgery — the soft tissue Bankart repair — which is the current standard of care.

READ MORE: Incision-free brain surgery now possible at Edmonton hospital

Jacob hopes the surgery will give him the edge he needs to get back on the ice and continue his hockey career.

Story continues below advertisement

Wong said Jacob will likely be able to return to the ice and begin his training again in six months.

Sponsored content