Many people who suffer from a dislocated shoulder, which is also known as an acromioclavicular (AC) joint dislocation, might seek surgical intervention to correct the problem. However, new research has suggested that dislocated shoulder patients should consider non-surgical options. Experts have found that wearing a sling, setting the shoulder in a corrected position, and undergoing extensive physical therapy might yield better results with such injuries than surgery. In fact, many doctors now believe there is no need to seek surgical intervention unless there is a severe dislocation or other complications.
The AC joint is located at the top of the shoulder, between the top of the shoulder blade (scapula) and the collarbone (clavicle). A dislocated shoulder can occur as the result of a sports injury, but can also be caused by falls, car accidents, or other related traumas.
According to researchers, patients who dislocated their AC joint and had their shoulder re-aligned, wore a sling, as well as underwent rehabilitation were able to recover faster. Moreover, these patients also encountered fewer complications during their recovery. Meanwhile, during the surgical procedure, the joint is corrected via a plate and screws. Moreover, surgical patients must also face additional complications such as infection, rejection or allergic reaction to the surgical hardware, and/or loose hardware.
The study, which suggested dislocated shoulder patients should consider non-surgical options, was published in the October 22 edition of the Journal of Orthopaedic Trauma. In the research, scientists studied 83 patients having dislocated shoulders. Out of the participants, 40 were treated with surgery while the remaining 43 were treated via non-surgical methods with a sling and rehab. The researchers found at initial follow-up sessions that patients treated without surgery had better movement of their shoulders than those who had surgery. The follow-up sessions were conducted at six weeks and three months after their injury. The 83 patients observed had moderate to severe AC joint dislocations. The participants were followed for a period of two years. During the study, researchers kept track of the participants’ level of disability, complications, and satisfaction with their shoulder’s appearance.
The non-surgical group was found to have more mobility of their shoulders than those individuals who underwent surgical intervention. Moreover, 75 percent of the non-surgical group returned to work after three months. Furthermore, the only major complication encountered by the 43 patients treated with a sling and rehabilitation was the result of a repeat injury.
In the case of the surgical group, approximately 43 percent returned to work after three months compared to the 75 percent of non-surgical participants. Furthermore, seven of the 40 patients who underwent surgical intervention encountered major complications, such as infection, numbness at the incision site, or a loose plate.
While the appearance of the shoulder is a consideration, many researchers believe that doctors should hesitate before recommending surgery for an AC joint dislocation and encourage dislocated shoulder patients to consider non-surgical options, regardless of the severity of the injury involved. While surgery is the common treatment approach for severe AC joint dislocations, there is little evidence to suggest it is the best treatment. In many cases, patients who forgo surgery experience less disability, have fewer complications, and return to work sooner. While surgical intervention may be necessary or even inevitable depending on the injury, dislocated shoulder patients should consider non-surgical options before putting themselves under the knife or at risk for further complications.
Written and Edited by Leigh Haugh
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Pierce Pioneer–Shoulder Dislocation Injury Can Be Treated Without Surgery