Skip to content

The Promise of Biologics in Improving Shoulder Surgery Outcomes

In This Video

  • Thomas Francis Holovacs, MD, is a shoulder and sports medicine orthopaedic surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital and instructor in orthopaedic surgery at Harvard Medical School
  • In this video, he describes how biologics, surgically implanting living tissues into patients to harness the patient’s natural healing potential, is becoming recognized as an intuitive and elegant approach to orthopaedic surgery

In this video, Thomas Holovacs, MD, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in shoulder and sports medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, discusses how biologics is becoming recognized as an intuitive and elegant approach to orthopaedic surgery.


One of the most exciting new frontiers in orthopedic surgery and in particular shoulder reconstruction in sports medicine, is the area that we call biologics. What we mean by biologics are living tissues that we can then implant into patients surgically that augment and harness the natural healing potential that the patient has.

So, for example, a common problem that we typically see is a patient with a rotator cuff problem. There's a great spectrum in rotator cuff problems all the way from rotator cuff tendinitis through a rotator cuff tear. The problem with rotator cuff disease in general is that it's an area that the body just doesn't naturally want to heal by itself, and so when there is a tear and the patient comes and is complaining about pain and/or weakness.

Sometimes we can fix it, but it would be nice if we could fix it and then the patient would have the ability to increase their ability to heal, or harness more healing potential. And so what we're developing now are scaffolds and patches that we can put into a rotator cuff repair, and that scaffold has the ability to allow the patient’s own cells to come into that scaffold and occupy that area and augment the healing, augment the strength of repair, and ultimately lead to a better outcome.

It has this intuitive beautiful feel to it that we're going to make your body heal itself. And it's not just me putting a shoulder replacement in you or putting an anchor into that. We want to be state of the art. We want to be elegant. And there's nothing more elegant than kind of nudging your body to heal itself. And if we can do that through orthopedic surgery, and I think we are, that's a major win.

About the Shoulder Service

Refer a patient to the Shoulder Service

Related topics


Christopher W. DiGiovanni, MD, chief of Foot and Ankle Service, and Daniel Guss, MD, MBA, orthopaedic surgeon in the Foot and Ankle Center, discuss the innovative work of the Mass General Foot and Ankle Research and Innovation Lab. 


In this video, Ashwin Babu, MD, sports medicine physiatrist, discusses the development of non-operative, regenerative medicine treatments that tap into a patient’s natural reserve of growth factors to speed up healing processes.