8 Types of Shoulder Surgeries

Common types of shoulder surgeries include rotator cuff repair, total shoulder replacement, and arthroscopy (e.g., for frozen shoulder or impingement syndrome). In general, these and other shoulder procedures help treat shoulder injuries by repairing or replacing cartilage, tendons, muscles, joints, and/or ligaments.

Procedures can range from minimally invasive arthroscopic procedures, where instruments are inserted through keyhole-size incisions in your shoulder, to more traditional ​open surgeries that involve incisions and sutures. Sealing Screw

8 Types of Shoulder Surgeries

This article discusses shoulder surgery types, reasons for each procedure, and the recovery process. It also covers risks and outcomes.

The most common surgery on the shoulder is a rotator cuff repair. Individuals may need this surgery if they experienced an injury, had a fall, or have inflammation or a tear that isn't getting any better with non-invasive treatment options.

The goal of the surgery is to identify the damaged part of the rotator cuff and to clean and reattach any torn or damaged tendons.

Once the healthy tissue is found, the surgeon will use different techniques to restore the tendon without stretching the remaining tissues:

There may be circumstances when a repair is not possible. Extensive separations known as massive rotator cuff tears are difficult to restore as the tissues can retract like a rubber band and experience rapid cell death (atrophy).

Recovery can take several months and you may be asked to wear a sling or immobilizer once home. You will also be given specific instructions detailing:

The success rate for this particular shoulder surgery is about 90%, with most individuals reporting decreased pain and increased joint functioning six months after surgery.

Risks associated with a rotator cuff repair include:

Also called rotator cuff tendonitis or bursitis, impingement syndrome occurs when the tendons of your rotator cuff are trapped and compressed during movement.

This may be due to an injury, but can also occur simply due to the shape of an individual's bones. Over time, this causes damage to the tendons, as well as the cushions inside the joint space, known as bursa.

The arthroscopic procedure used to correct impingement is known as a subacromial decompression. The aim of the surgery is to increase the space between the rotator cuff and the top of the shoulder, known as the acromion.

When performing subacromial decompression, your surgeon may remove the bursa alone or some of the undersurfaces of the acromion. Doing so creates space for the rotator cuff to glide without getting pinched between bone.

This surgical procedure may be performed alone or as part of a rotator cuff surgery. 

The recovery process depends on whether the procedure is performed alone or as part of another surgery. If done alone, individuals will need to wear a sling and start rehabilitation exercises, likely within a few weeks. In general, recovery time can take around four months.

If it is part of another surgery, the recovery process can take longer. There may also be more movement restrictions in place.

Research notes that the outcomes of this shoulder surgery are "good" or "very good," with many individuals experiencing total pain relief.

Risks include surgical errors or a misdiagnosis, which can both lead to long-term symptoms. Rare complications include infection, as well as pain and stiffness in the shoulder.

A superior labrum anterior and posterior (SLAP) tear is an injury to the rim of cartilage that encircles the shoulder socket known as the labrum. This can occur from an injury, repeated trauma, or wear-and-tear arthritis.

As its full name explains, a SLAP tear affects both the front (anterior) and back (posterior) of the labrum. This portion of the labrum is especially important as it serves as the attachment point for the biceps tendon.

Arthroscopic surgery may be used to restore the labrum back to its position at the rim of the shoulder socket. Once repositioned, sutures, or stitches, are used to secure the bone to the cartilage.

More surgery may be needed if the damage extends into the biceps tendon.

Average recovery time is about three months, but will depend on how severe the tear was. In general, it can take up to six weeks for the labrum to reattach properly to the bone. After that, your healthcare provider will recommend ways to slowly begin strengthening your arm.

The majority of individuals recover full range of motion after the surgery. Even athletes tend to be able to return to their sport without any restrictions once they've fully recovered.

Risks associated with this surgery include:

A shoulder dislocation injury occurs when the ball of the shoulder joint comes out of the socket. In young athletes, the damage most commonly occurs at the labrum.

This can happen if an individual experiences an injury that occurs due to a sudden force or with repetitive strain. In a very small amount of individuals, the shoulder can dislocate on its own without an injury.

To stabilize the shoulder after dislocation, a type of surgery known as a Bankart repair can attach the labrum to the joint capsule to hold the ball in place.

In individuals with a condition known as multidirectional instability, the shoulder joint comes in and out of the socket very easily, so surgery is used to tighten the joint capsule.

Repeated dislocations can lead to severe shoulder damage and require major surgery to keep the joint in place. While there are several different ways to achieve this, the procedures typically involve repositioning bone around the shoulder so the ball is held more securely.

The recovery period typically takes about two to five months, even with an accelerated rehabilitation program. Recovery typically involves immobilization for at least a month, followed by strength training.

Research suggests that about 92% of individuals who have Bankart repair surgery report feeling satisfied with their results.

About 71% of individuals report that they feel able to return to their typical level of work, and between 49% to 90% of individuals feel as if they were able to return to their pre-surgery level of athletic performance.

Risks associated with shoulder dislocation surgery include:

Frozen shoulder is the second most common cause of shoulder injury next to a rotator cuff tear. When a frozen shoulder occurs, the capsule surrounding the shoulder joint becomes tight and contracted.

Frozen shoulder tends to impact individuals between the ages of 40 and 60. It most often occurs in assigned females.

While the exact cause is not known, frozen shoulder is associated with certain conditions, such as diabetes and cardiac disease. It may also occur after having an arm immobilized after a surgery.

While often treated with non-surgical means, there are rare instances in which surgical treatment is required.

The goal of surgery is to loosen the contracted tissue to allow the shoulder to move more freely. This is done by cutting the capsule all the way around the ball of the shoulder.

It can be a challenging procedure to do, as the space inside the joint becomes extremely tight. Another challenge is that once the capsule is cut, the body responds by making new scar tissue.

Recovery can take up to three months, and physical therapy will be required to help restore the shoulder's range of motion.

Outcomes tend to be good after surgery. Most individuals report reduced or no pain, as well as improved range of motion.

The acromioclavicular joint, commonly known as the AC joint, is the junction of the end of the clavicle, or collarbone, and acromion. There are several problems that can occur at the AC joint.

The first is that it can wear out. This can occur as a result of arthritis, usually at the site of previous injury. It can also deteriorate due to a repetitive use injury, such as weightlifting (a condition referred to as distal clavicle osteolysis ).

If either of these conditions occurs, open surgery may be performed to remove the end of the collarbone and widen the AC joint space. In some cases, hardware such as plates or screws will be placed during the procedure.

Instability can also occur at the AC joint, causing progressive damage to the ligaments that connect the clavicle to the end of the shoulder blade. This can eventually lead to shoulder separation.

While shoulder separation can be treated without surgery, severe cases may require surgery to repair or reconstruct ligaments that support the end of the clavicle.

Recovery can take around three months and may include wearing a sling, as well as participating in physical therapy.

Research suggests that the majority of individuals undergoing surgery for AC joint repair report good or excellent outcomes, noting joint stability and strength improvement.

Risks depend on the specific surgery technique used, but may include:

Shoulder replacement surgery is typically reserved for advanced arthritis of the shoulder joint, but can also be used for complex fractures and other problems that cannot be repaired with other techniques.

A typical shoulder replacement will replace the ball-and-socket joint with an artificial ball made of metal and a socket made of plastic. 

In cases where only the top part of the arm bone (humerus) is broken or the socket of the arthritic shoulder is still intact, a partial replacement, known as hemiarthroplasty , may suffice. Hemiarthroplasty just replaces the ball of the shoulder, leaving the socket untouched.

Reverse shoulder replacement is another option. This surgery reverses the location of the ball-and-socket so that the replaced ball goes where the socket was, and the replaced socket goes where the ball was.

The surgery can provide an advantage for people with a rotator cuff tear arthropathy, in which both the labrum and rotator cuff are severely damaged.

The recovery process may take a few months and you may stay in the hospital for a several days after your procedure. You will need to wear a sling during the recovery process.

Cold therapy and physical therapy are recommended for several weeks. You will also be given pain management options.

In general, individuals who have a shoulder replacement surgery report feeling good about their results and tend to experience improved range of motion and pain relief.

However, it is fairly common to experience a dull pain if the arm is used often or when the weather changes.

Risks are rare, but may include:

The bicep is a muscle on the front of your arm. At the top end is a tendon called the long head of the bicep. This tendon attaches the muscle to the shoulder by traveling through the rotator cuff and attaching itself to the labrum. This makes the long head of the bicep a common target for shoulder problems.

Biceps tendon damage can occur from an injury, such as a fall or lifting something, but can also happen from long-term overuse.

Biceps tendon surgery can be performed alone or as part of a rotator cuff repair. There are generally two approaches used:

The recovery process can take around four months. During this time, your arm will be immobilized with a sling and a rehabilitation plan will be put in place to help strengthen your shoulder.

In general, the surgery can help restore the muscle's appearance and strength, as well as range of motion. However, complications are not uncommon.

The shoulder is prone to many different types of injuries. Often, these require surgical intervention. Shoulder surgeries range from minimally invasive options to open procedures. In some cases, an artificial shoulder replacement is necessary.

Before having any shoulder surgery, speak with your surgeon about the risks and benefits of the procedure and the results you can expect. Take your time to make an informed choice and seek a second opinion if needed.

It is important to manage your expectations and fully understand what is required of you during post-surgical rehabilitation.

Shoulder surgery costs vary, but can range from around $6,000 to over $20,000.

Research notes that rotator cuff repair is the most painful type of shoulder surgery, with individuals noting significantly more pain in the 24 hours post-operation when compared to those who had other types of shoulder surgeries.

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By Jonathan Cluett, MD Jonathan Cluett, MD, is board-certified in orthopedic surgery. He served as assistant team physician to Chivas USA (Major League Soccer) and the United States men's and women's national soccer teams.

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8 Types of Shoulder Surgeries

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