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What is Shoulder Reconstruction?

Shoulder reconstruction is a surgical procedure performed in patients to alleviate shoulder instability, restoring its function and serving to prevent recurrent shoulder dislocations. Shoulder reconstruction surgery involves repair of torn or stretched ligaments so that they are better able to hold the shoulder joint in place. 

Shoulder Instability 

Shoulder instability is a condition in which the structures that surround the shoulder joint, such as the ligaments, capsule and cartilage, become overstretched or injured. When this occurs, it can lead to shoulder joint dislocation. Shoulder instability can be caused by injury, falling on an outstretched hand, and repetitive overhead sports such as basketball, volleyball or weightlifting. Patients with shoulder instability may experience the following:

  • Severe pain
  • Swelling
  • Popping or grinding sound
  • Partial or complete dislocation
  • Loss of sensation or partial paralysis with loss of function

Shoulder Reconstruction Surgery

If conservative treatments such as immobilization, prescription medicines, physical therapy, closed reduction or manipulation and occupational therapy fail to relieve the shoulder instability, your surgeon may recommend reconstruction surgery.

Shoulder reconstruction surgery can be done arthroscopically, which involves using smaller incisions and tiny instruments to perform the repair. Some patients may need an open surgical procedure which involves a larger incision over the shoulder to perform the repair. During the surgery, the torn labrum is reattached to the shoulder socket with the help of special anchors and the overstretched capsules and ligaments are tightened.

Postoperative Care for Shoulder Reconstruction

Following surgery, your arm is kept in a sling for four to six weeks to facilitate healing. Your physical therapist will show you how to use the sling and give instruction on simple exercises. You may have some pain after the surgery for which pain medications are prescribed. Ice packs applied to the shoulder can help reduce the swelling. You may need to use a pillow under your shoulder for support while lying in bed. Avoid heavy lifting and driving during the first 6 weeks. You will be given specific instructions regarding activity and a rehabilitation program of exercise and strengthening.

Risks and Complications of Shoulder Reconstruction 

Some of the complications of shoulder reconstruction surgery may include:

  • Infection
  • Stiffness or restricted movement
  • Nerve and vessel injury
  • Failure of the procedure
  • Side-effects of general anesthesia
  • American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
  • American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
  • American Association of Nurse Anesthetists
  • American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons
  • OrthoInfo