Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Shoulder FAQ

Question:

Please help! I've been told I may need a shoulder replacement. I have a certain affinity for my body parts and I'm not willing to have any of them cut out and replaced. I also am a very active relatively young (65-years old) person and don't want to give up my pickle ball, golf, dancing, or gardening. Isn't there anything else out there for people like me? What do you advise?

Answer:

The diagnosis of shoulder osteoarthritis usually leads to successful results (less pain, better motion and function) with a shoulder replacement. But there are certain patients for whom studies show conventional shoulder replacement doesn't always result in good outcomes. And there are folks like yourself who would rather avoid this type of surgery. So, if the traditional shoulder replacement isn't the right fit for you, then what else can be done? According to shoulder surgeons at The Cleveland Shoulder Institute, there are two separate categories of potential treatment: types of arthroplasty (surgical repair of the joint) and nonarthroplasty (but still surgical) alternatives. Arthroplasty options include: shoulder resurfacing, using a short-stem humeral implant, and glenoid "reaming" without an implant (called ream and run). Humeral head resurfacing has been around for 25 years but the short-stem humeral implant is fairly new technology. "Ream and run" involves smoothing the glenoid (socket side) of the shoulder joint and restoring the round shape as much as possible. Nonarthroplasty treatment suggested includes debridement with capsular release, microfracture, autologous chondrocyte implantation, and osteochondral allograft resurfacing. Here are a few more details about these alternative options to traditional shoulder replacement that may assist you in talking with your surgeon about what's right for you. The main advantage to shoulder resurfacing and a short-stem humeral component is that these techniques preserve (save) bone. Only the damaged portion of the shoulder is replaced (not the whole shoulder). Bone spurs (called osteophytes are shaved away. The normal anatomy can be restored with less bone removal. Bone preservation makes it possible to delay (but not prevent) total shoulder replacement if and when further surgery is needed. There is also a newer approach to resurfacing the shoulder joint and that's called biologic glenoid resurfacing. In this case, the socket side of the joint (rather than the head of the humerus) is resurfaced. This can be done with a variety of different soft tissues to smooth the joint surface. The technique is called interpositional arthroplasty and uses human skin matrix, human tendon graft from a donor, the patient's own connective tissue from the fascia lata along the outside of the thigh, or pig graft material. On the nonarthroplasty side of things, the focus has been on trying to repair the damaged cartilage. The goal is to provide relief from pain and improve function. This is done by removing torn, damaged, or loose pieces of joint cartilage and smoothing or filling remaining holes, lesions, or "defects." Microfracture aids in repairing the joint surface by causing bleeding into the joint. The body creates new fibrous cartilage in the area where tiny holes have been drilled through the joint surface into the bone marrow. Alternatively, the surgeon can use cartilage cells (either harvested from the patient or from a donor) to fill in and then smooth over defects. Using the patient's own chondrocytes (cartilage cells) is ideal because there's a greater chance for cells to survive the transplantation process. But patient grafts also come with potential for problems at the donor site. These are all things you can bring up and discuss with your surgeon in making the decision about what is the best, right treatment decision for you. There are options these days and hopefully more to come in the near future as alternative treatments are proposed, used, studied, and reported on. Good luck! Samuel Dubrow, and Reuben Gobezie, MD. Alternative Options to Traditional Shoulder Replacement: Arthritis in the Young Patient. In Current Orthopaedic Practice. July/August 2013. Vol. 24. No. 4. Pp. 370-375.

*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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