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The shoulder joint is responsible for a great deal of mobility in the arm. Unfortunately, this mobility also makes it susceptible to a number of different types of injuries and conditions. Shoulder pain can be extremely debilitating, and if conservative treatment methods aren't offering relief, you may begin considering shoulder surgery as a solution.

But there are so many types of shoulder surgery, and all shoulder surgeries have different goals and results. How do you know which is the right surgical procedure for you? It all comes down to understanding the standard surgical procedures for your specific condition and what kind of results you're hoping to achieve.

The team of orthopedic surgery specialists at Greater Pittsburgh Orthopaedic Associates (GPOA) is passionate about giving patients minimally-invasive surgery solutions to their shoulder pain. We offer a number of shoulder procedures to patients in order to help them find relief from pain and improve their overall function.

Here are some important things to know about shoulder surgery, as well as a list of some of the most common shoulder surgeries:

How Do Shoulder Injuries Happen?

The shoulder is a ball and socket joint, where the upper arm bone fits into the shoulder socket located in the shoulder blade. It is supported by muscles, ligaments, and tendons. These structures can sometimes become injured or damaged, leading to various conditions.

Tendonitis is one such condition, where the tendons surrounding the shoulder joint become weak or frayed. This can cause pain and limited range of motion. Another condition is a shoulder dislocation, where the cartilage covering the shoulder socket (labrum) becomes torn or damaged.

Arthritis, a common cause of shoulder pain and stiffness, occurs when the cartilage surrounding the joints breaks down, leading to bone-on-bone contact. This can be a result of factors such as age, injury, or overuse.

Physical therapy plays a crucial role in managing shoulder conditions. It focuses on improving range of motion, strengthening the shoulder muscles, and reducing pain. Range of motion exercises, stretching, and targeted strengthening exercises are often prescribed by physical therapists to aid in the rehabilitation process and restore shoulder function.

Common Types of Shoulder Surgeries

The good news is that there are a number of different shoulder procedures that can help to relieve pain and improve function. Here are some of the most common shoulder procedures that we offer at GPOA:

Shoulder Replacement Surgery

Shoulder replacement surgery involves removing and replacing the damaged parts of the shoulder joint with artificial implants, such as an artificial ball or socket. This procedure is commonly used for patients with advanced arthritis or irreparable damage in the shoulder that has not responded to other treatment options, including arthroscopic repair.

There are different types of shoulder replacement surgeries, including:

  1. Total shoulder replacement: This procedure replaces both the ball and socket with artificial implants. It is the most common type of shoulder replacement surgery.
  2. Partial shoulder replacement: In this procedure, only the ball is replaced with an artificial implant, while the socket is left intact.
  3. Reverse total shoulder replacement: This surgery involves switching the ball and socket. The artificial ball is attached to the socket, and the socket is attached to the upper arm bone. It is typically used for patients with severe rotator cuff tears that cannot be repaired.

Following shoulder replacement surgery, patients may be prescribed pain medication to manage any discomfort during the recovery process.

Rotator Cuff Repair Surgery

Rotator cuff surgery is a specialized procedure that involves reattaching the torn rotator cuff tendon to the bone. When a rotator cuff tear occurs, seeking prompt treatment is crucial. If left untreated, the tendons may further separate from the bone. Treatment options for rotator cuff tears include shoulder rotator cuff tear surgery or other conservative methods. These tears can result from factors such as overuse, repetitive motions, or acute injuries. By addressing the torn rotator cuff tendons through surgery, individuals can aim to restore stability and functionality to the shoulder joint.

Rotator cuff repairs can be done either arthroscopically or through an open incision, depending on the severity of the tear and the surgeon's preference. The repair involves re-attaching the torn tendon to the head of the humerus (upper arm bone). Post-surgery, patients typically need to wear a sling for a few weeks to protect the repair and allow the tendon to heal. Physical therapy is then initiated to regain movement and strengthen the shoulder. While recovery time varies, return to full function can take several months.

Decompression Surgery

Subacromial decompression is the established treatment for shoulder impingement syndrome. This condition occurs when inflamed tissue restricts the natural movement of the shoulder joint. During subacromial decompression surgery, the surgeon removes bone and scar tissue that compress the rotator cuff tendons, causing impingement. This surgical procedure is also effective in addressing other related conditions like bursitis or arthritis.

Capsular Release

Capsular release surgery is a procedure in which the surgeon makes an incision in the shoulder capsule, the connective tissue that surrounds the shoulder joint. This type of surgery is typically used to treat frozen shoulder, a condition in which the joint capsule becomes thickened and stiff, causing the shoulder to “freeze” in place.

Shoulder Labrum Surgery

The labrum is a ring of cartilage that surrounds the shoulder socket. A tear in the labrum can cause shoulder instability, pain, and clicking. Labral repair surgery is a procedure in which the surgeon reattaches the torn labrum to the bone. This type of surgery is typically used for patients with shoulder instability or a dislocated shoulder to restore shoulder stability.

Arthroscopic Surgery

Arthroscopic shoulder surgery is a minimally invasive procedure in which the surgeon inserts a small camera, called an arthroscope, into the shoulder joint through tiny incisions. 'Shoulder arthroscopy' really refers to any type of arthroscopic surgery that is performed on the shoulder joint, but it is most commonly used to treat rotator cuff tears, shoulder impingement syndrome, SLAP tear, and other conditions.

Arthroscopic shoulder surgery has a number of advantages over traditional open surgery, including a smaller surgical incision, less pain, shorter recovery times, and a lower risk of infection.

Visit the Best Shoulder Doctor in Pittsburgh

Ultimately, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon can help you determine the best course of treatment and pain relief for your shoulder condition. However, patients need to know their options to make the best possible decision for themselves.

Whether you are suffering from shoulder pain due to injury, overuse, or arthritis, the orthopaedic surgeons at Greater Pittsburgh Orthopaedic Associates can help with pain relief and treatment. Our surgical team offers a full range of minimally-invasive shoulder surgery options to meet your needs and help you make a full recovery.

If you're ready to receive care from the best shoulder surgeon Pittsburgh has to offer, schedule your appointment with GPOA today!