Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Shoulder FAQ


Mother fractured her shoulder and needed surgery. We thought with the new arthroscopic operations, she would just be in and out in a day. Instead, they did an open incision and it took much longer for her to recover. How is this decided anyway?


Sometimes shoulder fractures can be treated conservatively without surgery at all. But when this isn't possible, then surgery to repair the damage may be needed.

As you know, the procedure may be open with a wide incision or closed using small openings for the arthroscope to enter the joint. There is no set standard for when to use each of these methods.

If the broken pieces of bone move, the fracture is . Amount of fracture displacement can dictate the type of treatment. Small fracture displacements may not require surgical repair. When surgery is done, open repair is still considered the standard approach.

Arthroscopic exam does allow the surgeon to see what kind of damage has been done to the soft tissue structures around the joint. It also helps avoid cutting through the deltoid muscle.

But if the X-ray shows a large fracture fragement, poor bone quality, or significant displacement, then arthroscopic repair is not the best option. Arthroscopic treatment also takes longer than an open repair. If the patient has any other health issues, arthroscopic repair may not be best for that individual. Michael S. George, MD. Fractures of the Greater Tuberosity of the Humerus. In Journal of American Academy of Orthopadedic Surgeons. October 2007. Vol. 15. No. 10. Pp. 607-613.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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