Past Catches up with Local Orthopedic Surgeon

August 01, 2011
Shoulder replacement procedure reconnects teacher with former student

It’s not often you give a helping hand to someone whose own hand helped shape your life, but that’s what’s happening in a small exam room off Shipyard Boulevard just a few minutes from New Hanover Regional Medical Center’s Orthopedic Center at Cape Fear Hospital.

Here, amid honey-yellow walls and a digital X-ray image of a woman’s left shoulder, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Richard Moore of Wilmington Orthopaedic Group moves seventy-three-year-old Blanche Helm Nichols’ left arm up and down.

“Look at that range of motion … that’s outstanding, just outstanding,” says Dr. Moore. “Just three months after surgery - amazing. You’re doing great!”

Mrs. Nichols’ smile – proud, accomplished-looking, and wide across her face – is a fitting salute to Dr. Moore’s work and a procedure called total shoulder replacement surgery. It’s what brought the Jacksonville, NC, resident and former high school teacher to Dr. Moore this past April. Or, rather, it was the chronic, agonizing arthritic pain in her shoulder that brought her, something she’d been battling for years.

“The pain was 24/7, even while resting and sleeping,” says Mrs. Nichols. “The pain impacted everything from being able to put on a jacket to vacuuming.”

With an estimated one in five Americans suffering shoulder pain at some point in their lives, it’s a story familiar to Dr. Moore.

“Shoulder pain resulting from osteoarthritis, or the progressive wearing away of cartilage around the joint, can be extremely painful and impede quality of life,” says Dr. Moore. “When non-surgical interventions fail, shoulder replacement surgery often becomes the next option.”

The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint. The ball portion of the joint sits at the top of humerus, or arm bone, while the socket portion is situated on the scapula, or shoulder blade. In total shoulder replacement, the arthritic ball and socket are removed and replaced with artificial components. In between these components sits a thin plastic or metal-and-plastic insert allowing the humerus to move smoothly over the scapula. Together, these parts form the new shoulder joint. The inpatient procedure is performed under general anesthesia and lasts between one and two hours.

“It’s a safe, effective procedure with reliable outcomes that gives patients pain relief, and improved function and quality of life,” says Dr. Moore. “Patients undergo a prescribed regimen of physical rehabilitation in the weeks and months ahead, and can expect a return to normal activities within a few months.”

For Mrs. Nichols, who now holds her arm high above, almost perpendicular to the floor, it’s all been worth it: “This surgery definitely isn’t for wimps, but it’s given me back my life and the activities I love doing. And the pain is gone. I sleep restfully now.”

Mrs. Nichols lowers her arm slowly but decisively, as if to hush a classroom of children. Which is no small irony considering the Jacksonville-bred surgeon sitting in front of her for the past twenty minutes – the man who has surgically replaced her shoulder, taken away her pain, and helped her get back what she’s always loved doing – was a onetime student of hers.

“It’s a small world,” says Mrs. Nichols, “I’m grateful for this procedure and all the hands that helped make it happen.”

Ranked in the top 10 percent of all orthopedic facilities nationally, New Hanover Regional Medical Center Orthopedic Center offers both inpatient and outpatient surgical services for patients with problems with their muscles, joints, bones, ligaments, tendons and nerves.

In Need of Orthopedic Care?

The following is a list of local orthopedic practices that can advise on a range of treatment options.

  • Atlantic Orthopedics
  • Bowling Orthopaedics
  • Cape Fear Sports Medicine
  • Carolina Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Specialists
  • Carter Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine
  • Moore Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine
  • North Carolina Shoulder & Elbow Surgery
  • Port City Orthopaedics
  • Wilmington Orthopaedic Group
  • Wilmington Health Orthopaedics

For more information on the NHRMC Orthopedic Center, visit, or call VitaLine at 815.5188.