A new study suggests that surgery may not be the best idea if you have ever suffered from a dislocated shoulder.
Shoulders are some of the most amazing parts of the human body, and they have evolved to allow us a wide range of motion and strength in our upper bodies. One of the most common injuries to the ball-and-socket joint, however, is dislocation. Though this can be painful, it may be easier to fix than doctors used to think.
According to a report from UPI, a recent study suggests that the most common treatment for a dislocated AC joint, surgery, may not actually be necessary in AC joint dislocation cases, save for only the most severe.
Scientists working with St. Michael’s Hospital have found that patients who have dislocated their AC joint but keep it stationary with a sling and use physical therapy to regain strength face an easier recovery than people who have their shoulders surgically repaired. Shoulder surgery usually entails reconnecting the ball and the socket using a series of screws and a metal plate.
According to Dr. Michael McKee, there isn’t a whole lot of evidence to suggest that shoulder surgery is the best option for treating the injury. Surgery can be advantageous when the dislocation has really set the joint out of calibration, but there is little data showing just how serious the long-term complications with surgery can be.
Out of a sample of 83 patients with dislocated AC joints, 40 received surgical treatment and the other 43 recovered on their own. The patients who did not receive surgery had a higher range of mobility in their shoulders at both six-week and three-month checkups, and three-quarters were able to return to work after three months.
In the group treated with surgery, only 43 of the patients were able to return to work within three months. The surgical group also faced a number of complications, including infections, loose plates, and numbness. There were only two complications in the non-surgical group, both of which were caused by falls that hampered the recovery.
The non-surgical group had more complaints about the appearance of their healed shoulders, while only four percent of the surgical group was displeased with the look of their shoulder.
It seems as though AC joint dislocation patients face a tradeoff – they can have their shoulders look as good as new, or work again sooner.
A press release from St. Michael’s Hospital detailing the study’s findings can be found here.