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Shoulder Stabilization Surgery

What is shoulder instability?

The shoulder joint is one of the most flexible joints in our body, but also one that can be prone to injury. Shoulder instability is one of the most common conditions that affect this joint. The joint can become easily injured or dislocated. Once this happens, it is difficult for the joint to regain stability without medical intervention. Together, the connective tissues, bones and muscles that compose this joint work to provide stability. If these components fail to work together properly after dislocation occurs, surgical measures may be needed to repair this condition.

When is shoulder stabilization surgery recommended?

Your shoulder is composed of stabilizers such as the rotator cuff and other connective tissues that help to control the mobility of your joint. If these stabilizers are damaged, worn or injured, they no longer functionproperly and the joint becomes unstable. An unstable shoulder that has been dislocated once before is also prone to slipping out of place again.  Frequent dislocations of the shoulder not only cause pain, but can also cause you to become prone to arthritis later in life.

For some injuries, physical therapy can be used to strengthen the joint. If physical therapy alone is not sufficient to correct your condition, surgical stabilization is recommended.

Which structures of the shoulder joint are repaired with stabilization surgery?

Ligaments and cartilage that have become damaged as a result of shoulder dislocation are repaired during surgery. Examples of ligaments or cartilage that are repaired during this surgery include the:

  • Labrum
  • Glenohumeral ligaments
  • Joint capsule
  • Rotator cuff

Your surgeon will determine if surgery is the necessary approach to correct the damage to your joint.

What are the risks accompanied with shoulder stabilization surgery?

Shoulder stabilization is a highly successful procedure with minimal risk involved. Some risks, however, are present with any surgical procedure, including:

  • An adverse reaction to anesthesia
  • Postsurgical infection
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Stiffness of the shoulder joint
  • Failure to repair your condition completely or alleviate your symptoms

It is important to discuss these risks with your surgeon prior to the procedure and determine if shoulder stabilization surgery is right for you.

How is shoulder stabilization surgery performed?

Shoulder stabilization is performed arthroscopically and is not very invasive. Most procedures are completed within 2 hours. Regional nerve blocks are the most common form of anesthesia used for this procedure. A light general anesthetic may also be administered to make you feel more comfortable and relaxed.

A small incision is made with the use of the arthroscope and the images created with the device are viewed on a video screen.  Using separate incisions, small surgical instruments are inserted to reattach the loose or torn ligaments. Special implants called suture anchors are used to reattach the ligament. The anchors are effective in tightening or relocating the injured joint. The sutures do not need to be removed and will dissolve on their own over time.

The incisions made with the arthroscope will be covered with steri-strips and secured with a thick, soft bandage. Since this form of surgery is arthroscopic, hospital stays are not necessary. This procedure is most often performed in a surgical center from which you will be released the same day.

What can be expected after shoulder stabilization surgery?

Since anesthesia is administered for this procedure and drowsiness is likely to occur, it is advised that you have someone accompany you to your surgery. Pain and discomfort are to be expected after the procedure and can be controlled with either prescribed pain medication or over-the counter- medications such as Tylenol. Swelling in the area is also expected and can be controlled with ice applications.

It is important to keep the incisions clean and dry. Although you will be permitted to shower after 2 days, it is advised that you keep the incisions protected at all times. Avoid immersing your incisions in water for 2 weeks.

After surgery, it is crucial not to move your shoulder for a period of time to ensure proper healing. Your shoulder will be placed in an immobilizer to keep the joint stable and prevent injury. Your surgeon will advise you not to lift any heavy objects and to avoid strenuous activity during the healing period, which can last anywhere between 3 and 6 weeks. Rehabilitation through physical therapy is recommended to help promote proper healing and prevent stiffness of your joint. Your rehabilitation plan will be developed based on the extent of your injury and the time recommended for healing.


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