Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Shoulder FAQ


I'm a professional rodeo rider and had a bad calf roping accident. My right shoulder was dislocated severely and the muscles around the joint ruptured. After three surgeries already I'm going to have it fused. How do they do this operation? What can I expect during recovery?


Shoulder fusion is not used as commonly as it once was. Shoulder replacement has replaced fusion in many cases. If you haven't already talked to your surgeon about a total shoulder replacement, you may want to ask about this as an option before shoulder fusion.

Shoulder fusion or arthrodesis is called a salvage procedure. The arm is saved from amputation but full shoulder motion isn't preserved. You may not have enough motion to swing a rope over your head or enough strength to wrestle a calf to the ground.

The fusion is done using metal plates and screws. The reconstruction plate is actually one normally used in the hip or pelvic area. It goes up along the outside of the upper arm and over the top of the shoulder along the bony ridge of the shoulder blade. Screws help compress the bones together to fuse the area. Sometimes bone grafts are used to fill in any spaces left open.

Your arm will be immobilized for at least eight to 10 weeks. Some doctors use a special abduction pillow. Others put the arm in a full cast from wrist to shoulder. Once there is evidence of fusion on X-ray, rehab exercises can begin.

Ori Safran, MD, and Joseph P. Iannotti, MD, PhD. Arthrodesis of the Shoulder. In Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. March 2006. Vol. 14. No. 3. Pp. 145-153.

*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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