Does Shoulder Dislocation Require Surgery?
For young people (under the age of 30), there is a high likelihood that the shoulder will continue to dislocate in the future after one has sustained an initial dislocation. This is especially true in teenage males who participate in contact sports such as football. The reason there is a high recurrence rate is that with an initial dislocation, there is tearing of the labrum and the ligaments of the shoulder, and these do not heal in the proper position without surgery. Furthermore, certain sports, such as football, place such significant stresses on the shoulder that further dislocations are more likely. For this reason, most young patients come to arthroscopic surgery to have their labrum repaired back to the edge of the socket (glenoid) as well as tightening any stretched out ligaments. Following surgery, patients go home the same day in a sling, which is worn for 4 weeks. Patients come out of the sling immediately and start gentle physical therapy to slowly regain their shoulder range of motion and later their strength. Patients can be jogging or riding a bike by 6 weeks, but it could take 4 months to be cleared to play a contact sport like football.
For older patients (over the age of 50), there is less likely to be further dislocation events as most older patients do not participate in high risk sports such as football. However, there is more likely to be associated tears of the rotator cuff tendons following a shoulder dislocation as there is underlying wear and tear change in the tendons and they are more susceptible. Given this, Dr. Cunningham always recommends that an MRI be performed to check for rotator cuff tearing in anyone over the age of 50 or in patients who demonstrate rotator cuff weakness on a physical exam following a shoulder dislocation. If there is an associated rotator cuff tear, then arthroscopic surgery would be recommended to repair this tear as well as to fix the torn labrum in the shoulder.
Dr. Cunningham is a shoulder specialist at Vail Summit Orthopaedics and Neurosurgery. He is an expert at diagnosing and treating shoulder dislocations for patients in Vail, Summit County, Aspen, and Denver, CO. Contact Dr. Cunningham today.