Valley View Hospital doctor implements cutting-edge surgery technology |

Valley View Hospital doctor implements cutting-edge surgery technology

Tatiana Flowers
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
Orthopaedic surgeon Ferdinand “Tito” Liotta, MD of the Glenwood Orthopaedic Center at Valley View explains the process of shoulder replacement surgery and how the Exactech technology works to produce better results for each individual patient.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Dr. Ferdinand Liotta is the first physician in Colorado to use a new state-of-the-art technology that helps physicians virtually simulate a surgery before even making the first incision.

The orthopedic surgeon at Valley View Hospital, who specializes in shoulder surgery, said he came across the new computer-assisted navigation tool before the company had even finished evaluating it.

He was working on two different, complex shoulder replacements at the time, and knew the new tool would make him a much better, more efficient surgeon.

He was able to convince Exactech, a France-based company, to send him the new shoulder-replacement technology before it hit the market, and he said he’s seen a list of positive reverberations since he’s started using the year-old technology.

“This technology allows me to be more precise in the placement of (a shoulder) implant, because it gives greater visibility to the shoulder anatomy, which reduces problems down the line.”Ferdinand LiottaOrthopedic surgeon at Valley View Hospital

“The shoulder is hugely more complex than any other joint that we do replacements in,” he said.

The shoulder is buried in soft tissue, the functioning involves many different muscle groups and the range of motion is far more complex and varied than, say, a knee.

“To get the whole thing working right is sometimes very difficult,” he said.

Exactech will receive a CAT scan of the patient’s shoulder, and then then one of its staff members will transform the X-ray into a three-dimensional, computer-generated map of the person’s shoulder blade.

That 3-D map will be sent to the surgeon, who will then gauge the uniqueness and damage to the patient’s joint.

From there, the surgeon is able to plan the insertion of the shoulder implant (the shoulder replacement), meaning the surgery is already mapped out before the patient comes in.

“Before it was all eyeball,” Liotta said. “This has just made me way better.”

The novelty in this, he said, is the fact that it’s the first of its kind to display and guide a surgeon’s hand placement in live view, on a computer screen, as the surgery progresses.

He said this step in the process provides precision. It has been made available to knee and hip surgeons but not yet shoulder surgeons.

“When patients have a lot of issues with the cup portion of the shoulder, it makes it difficult to accurately place an implant,” he said.

“This technology allows me to be more precise in the placement of the implant, because it gives greater visibility to the shoulder anatomy, which reduces problems down the line,” he said in a statement, released by Valley View Hospital.

Bill Swigert said he was surprised at how soon he recovered.

Five months ago, Liotta performed the replacement surgery on him using the new technology.

He says he felt “pretty well recovered” after three months, noting it took six months or more for some of his friends to recover without using the same technology.

“I was off prescription drugs after one week and after one month, I was out of the sling,” he said.

An added bonus, “They told me potentially (the implant) could only last 20 years,” he said, adding the reason is because shoulder implants are known to become loose over time.

“With the new technology, you have a much better chance that the anchor will work better for a lot longer. It’s more accurate as far as the installation,” he said.

Liotta said, anecdotally, patients have better range of motion and movement, and not as much failure.

He says X-rays tend to look healthier with the new technology.

Jane Keener, another of Liotta’s patients, said she’s back to playing golf, with full range of motion, and is pain-free, according to a statement by Valley View staff.

“After so many attempts of solving the problem with other options, Dr. Liotta changed my life with this one,” she said.

It will take at least five to 10 years to know if the new equipment is definitely preventing implant installation failures, Liotta said.

It’ll take far more than the 20 to 30 surgeries he’s already conducted to tell, he said.

Swigert says he’s retired, and Medicare covered his surgery.

“It was a simple decision from that standpoint,” he said, adding Liotta was easy to work with.

“From my professional career, I’ve always appreciated when people listen to what your problem is, rather than what they’re here to sell,” Swigert said.

Liotta is teaching other physicians how to use the equipment and said his goal in bringing it to Valley View was to let people know there’s cutting edge shoulder treatment in the valley.

“Now people don’t have to go to Denver. You can stay local and get exceptional care,” he said.