A recent study indicates that unless it's a severe dislocation, you may be way better off without going under the knife.
We recently reported on a new study that suggests people are getting surgery they don’t need after dislocating their shoulder — but why is it a bad idea?
The study found that only severe dislocations need surgery, and those who get surgery for the more common shoulder dislocation in their acromio-clavicular joint won’t experience many benefits, and may experience some severe downsides.
Dr. Michael McKee, who is an orthopedic surgeon with St. Michael’s Hospital, said in a statement: “For severe AC joint dislocations, surgery is the common practice, but there’s not much evidence to suggest this is actually the best treatment. … The main advantages of surgery are that the joint is put back in place and the shoulder appears more symmetrical and pleasing to the eye. The long-term implications of surgery for AC joint dislocation remain unclear when compared to non-operative treatment.”
But just what are the downsides? For one thing, the study showed that 75 percent of those treated non-surgically were back at work after three months, compared to just 43 percent who went under the knife.
And then there is the issue of complications. Those who just put their arms in a sling had only two complications out of about 40 patients, and those were both from falls. For the other patients, there were seven major complications ranging from a loose plate to an infection.
The reality is, no matter what the operation is, there can be complications. For one thing, there will be pain after a surgery. You’ll get medication to handle it, but it will be unavoidable. There will also be stiffness after shoulder surgery in about 10 percent of people that is often called “frozen shoulder.”
Some other complications include bleeding and infection. Although this happens in less than 1 percent of patients, it’s a risk that non-surgical patients don’t have to face.
In rare cases, there may even be nerve injury. This happens in less than 0.5 percent of cases in shoulder surgeries, but again, it’s a risk non-surgical patients can avoid altogether.
So as with any surgery, if you can avoid it, you should generally take that opportunity. And as it turns out, much of the time when you dislocate your shoulder, going under the knife just isn’t necessary.