Shoulder surgery is an essential medical procedure for patients whose shoulder conditions refuse to resolve after trying conservative treatments. Surgeons perform surgery to remove damaged tissue and repair any defects, allowing the shoulder to heal and restoring mobility to the joint. A typical upper extremity surgery is shoulder replacement, where an artificial ball-and-socket joint replaces a severely damaged shoulder joint. Given the extensive nature of these procedures, patients may have concerns regarding possible complications from the procedure. Learn about the risks of shoulder surgery to prepare and minimize your risks.
Risks of Shoulder Surgery
Shoulder surgery is generally a low-risk procedure. Significant adverse effects are rare, primarily due to advancements in technology, surgical techniques, and training. Studies show that only 1.6% of older patients experienced at least one adverse effect, with 0.2% of patients in the study requiring readmission. Choosing an experienced surgical team with access to high-quality technology is crucial for minimizing your risk from any upper extremity surgery.
Some factors can modify your risk exposure. For instance, old age reduces immune responses and tissue repair rates. As a result, older patients can be more prone to infection and recovery complications and may have a higher risk of blood clots.
Meanwhile, younger patients with more active bone growth have a higher risk of implant failure, as changes in anatomy can displace the artificial joint. They may require revision surgery to reattach the artificial joint.
Other risk factors include comorbidities such as obesity, cardiovascular conditions and cancer.
One of the more direct risks of shoulder surgery involves accidental damage to otherwise healthy tissues. The shoulder joint includes an extensive set of muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves to enable a wide range of mobility. These structures are tightly packed into the shoulder area, and even the best-trained surgeons can cause unintended damage. Excessive damage to the nearby muscles and connective tissue can hamper healing, leading to a longer recovery time.
Meanwhile, nerve damage is a rare complication of shoulder surgery caused by surgical instruments or implant components hitting nearby nerves. Typical symptoms include numbness and weakness that do not improve with time. While rare, artery damage can also occur and cause heavy bleeding if not promptly controlled.
A thorough preoperative plan can virtually eliminate the risk of damaging other tissues in the shoulder. Shoulder surgeons can study your anatomy to plan a surgical approach that minimizes incisions and protects crucial structures such as nerves. Working with an experienced surgeon with access to quality facilities is paramount for reducing risks.
Any open wound is susceptible to infection. Infection can cause inflammation and delay the healing process. Infected incisions can introduce bacteria to the bloodstream, allowing them to spread throughout the body.
Fortunately, infection is a rare complication in modern hospitals. Any shoulder surgery includes several safeguards, including sterilizing all equipment and thorough skin disinfection. Prompt treatment with antibiotics is crucial in stopping any infection before it can spread.
A sudden fever, drainage from the surgical site or an increase in inflammation are hallmark signs of an infection. Contact your orthopedic doctor immediately to receive antibacterial treatment.
Unlike biological tissue, the artificial components of a shoulder implant cannot self-repair. Over time, wear and tear can compromise the function of an artificial shoulder joint. The internal surfaces of the artificial joint can wear away, causing instability and increasing the risk of dislocations. Other components may also loosen, making it difficult to rotate the joint to its full range of motion.
Extensive use of the artificial joint after shoulder surgery can accelerate the degradation process. Around 3% of artificial joints become loose after ten years. In these cases, revision surgery may become necessary to install a new artificial joint.
Upper Extremity Surgery in Maryland
Shoulder surgery is not a high-risk operation, but it carries some risks like any other surgery. Fortunately, you and your healthcare provider can mitigate these risks through thorough preparation and expertise. The best way to protect yourself from complications is to work with highly trained medical experts with access to state-of-the-art equipment and techniques.
Greater Chesapeake Hand to Shoulder operates through its primary office in Lutherville and six satellite locations in Bel Air, Clarksville, Eldersburg, Pasadena, Westminster, and Baltimore. Our doctors specialize in resolving even the most complex orthopedic conditions through cutting-edge techniques. Learn more by calling us at (410) 296-6232 or by reserving an appointment.