A Comprehensive Guide to Shoulder Surgery

February 22, 2024 | By: Raleigh Orthopaedic Team
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Welcome to Raleigh Orthopaedic’s comprehensive guide to shoulder surgery! If you’re considering or have been recommended shoulder surgery, you likely have questions and concerns. We’re here to provide you with valuable information to help you understand the process, what to expect, and how to prepare for a successful outcome.

Understanding the Shoulder:

The shoulder is a complex joint that allows for a wide range of motion, making it susceptible to various injuries and conditions. The shoulder consists of several structures, including soft tissues that keep the upper arm bone (humerus) positioned securely in the shoulder socket. Muscles and tendons make up the “rotator cuff” and allow for a wide range of movement in the arm, such as rotating the arm and allowing it to move upwards, to the front, back, and side.

However, the ability to perform so many movements can make the shoulder vulnerable to injuries and degenerative conditions, such as arthritis. Shoulder problems can lead to pain, instability, weakness, and a reduced range of motion, preventing you from carrying out your normal day-to-day activities. The most common shoulder problems include:

  • Inflammation of tendons (resulting in impingement)
  • Rotator cuff tears (tendon or muscle)
  • Shoulder instability
  • Fractures
  • Arthritis

When Is Shoulder Surgery Necessary?

Many shoulder problems, including some rotator cuff tears, can be treated successfully with non-surgical methods, including rest, activity modification, and pain relief medication. Physical and occupational therapy can also help to reduce symptoms and restore strength and function in the shoulder. However, surgery may need to be considered if symptoms do not improve or to repair significant damage to the shoulder joint.

With advances in surgical techniques over the years, shoulder surgery has become less invasive, resulting in good outcomes and improved recovery times, making it a more popular option when nonsurgical treatments no longer provide relief.

As with all types of  injuries and conditions, the decision on how to treat a shoulder problem is very individualized, depending on factors such as age, lifestyle, overall health, and the type and severity of the problem.

Types of Shoulder Surgery:

There are several types of shoulder surgeries, each tailored to address specific conditions and issues:

Shoulder Arthroscopy

Arthroscopy is a procedure that allows surgeons to view, diagnose, and treat problems inside a joint without making a large incision. The procedure involves inserting a narrow tube attached to a fiber-optic video camera through a very small incision, with the view inside the joint being transmitted to a high-definition video monitor. Some types of joint damage can also be repaired during arthroscopy, with the use of small specialized surgical instruments that are inserted through additional small incisions. The procedure is less invasive, has a much lower risk of complications, and is associated with a quicker recovery period than traditional surgery, which uses much larger incisions.

Arthroscopy may be used to reconstruct or tighten damaged structures or remove inflamed or damaged tissue or bone spurs to help relieve pain, restore function, and stabilize the shoulder.

Rotator Cuff Repair Surgery

There are several procedures used to treat rotator cuff tears. The one you need will depend on the size, shape, and location of the tear. Surgery aims to remove damaged tissue (debridement) and to re-attach the tendon to the bone. Common surgical approaches for rotator cuff repair include open surgical repair, mini-open repair, and arthroscopic repair surgery.

Total Shoulder Joint Replacement

Total shoulder joint replacement also known as arthroplasty, involves replacing damaged bone and cartilage in a joint with metal and plastic implants. The procedure may be recommended when other non-surgical treatments haven’t improved symptoms. It can help to relieve pain and restore function when the joint is significantly damaged, such as through trauma or severe arthritis.

Reverse Shoulder Replacement

The purpose of the surgery is to replace the parts of the damaged shoulder joint to stabilize the shoulder joint and restore pain-free motion and function. Reverse shoulder replacement surgery involves components of an artificial joint being placed in reversed positions. Instead of the top of the humerus sitting within the socket of the shoulder blade (scapula), an artificial socket is created at the top of the humerus and a prosthetic ball is surgically attached to the scapula. This allows the shoulder to bypass damaged rotator cuff muscles and use the deltoid muscle (located at the top of the arm and shoulder) instead.

Fracture Surgery

Treatment for a fracture depends on the location and severity of the fracture. Simple fractures may only require casting or splinting treatments, but more complex fractures may need surgery to realign or reconstruct the fractured bone to allow it to heal correctly.

Preparing for Shoulder Surgery:

Before undergoing shoulder surgery, it’s essential to be well-prepared:

  1. Consultation: Schedule a consultation with an orthopedic surgeon to discuss your condition, treatment options, and what to expect during and after surgery.
  2. Preoperative Evaluation: Your surgeon will likely order tests such as X-rays, MRI scans, or blood work to assess your shoulder’s condition and ensure you’re healthy enough for surgery.
  3. Rehabilitation: In many cases, physical therapy before surgery can help strengthen the muscles around the shoulder and improve range of motion, which may facilitate recovery.
  4. Lifestyle Adjustments: Prepare your home for post-surgery recovery by arranging for assistance with daily tasks and ensuring you have a comfortable and supportive environment.

Recovery and Rehabilitation:

Recovery from shoulder surgery varies depending on the type of procedure performed and individual factors. However, here are some general guidelines:

  1. Pain Management: Your surgeon will create an individualized pain management plan to keep you comfortable during the initial stages of recovery.
  2. Immobilization: You may need to wear a sling or shoulder immobilizer to protect the surgical site and facilitate healing.
  3. Physical Therapy: Following surgery, you’ll work with a physical therapist to gradually regain strength, mobility, and function in your shoulder.
  4. Patience and Persistence: Recovery from shoulder surgery takes time and dedication. Be patient with yourself and follow your surgeon’s recommendations for optimal results.

Orthopedic Surgeon Near Me in Raleigh, NC

Shoulder surgery can be a life-changing procedure for individuals suffering from shoulder pain and dysfunction. By understanding the process, preparing adequately, and committing to rehabilitation, you can increase the likelihood of a successful outcome and return to an active, pain-free lifestyle. If you have further questions or would like to schedule a consultation, don’t hesitate to contact our clinic today.

For an experienced shoulder surgeon that you can trust, visit Raleigh Orthopaedic.  Our board-certified and fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeons offer the most up-to-date surgical and non-surgical techniques to treat the full spectrum of shoulder, elbow, wrist, and hand problems in patients of all ages.

To learn more about our services or to schedule an appointment, call us at (919) 781-5600. Alternatively, you can schedule an appointment online at one of our six convenient locations in the Wake County area.

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