shoulder replacement risks

Higher Surgeon Volume Means Lower Risks for Patients After Shoulder Replacements

A recent review published in the British Medical Journal indicates that choosing a surgeon for your shoulder replacement who carries out more than 10 surgeries a year can lead to better results.

Shoulder replacement patients treated by surgeons with higher yearly volumes reported lower risk of revision surgeries and serious complications, as well as shorter hospital stays.

Here we look at the research findings, why it comes at such a critical time and the risks associated with a shoulder replacement procedure.

Elective shoulder replacement surgery – the data

There are now over 8,000 shoulder replacements carried out every year in the UK. With an ageing population, this number is expected to rise significantly.

Researchers used data from the UK’s National Joint Registry and Hospital Episode Statistics for England. They reviewed 39,281 shoulder replacement procedures undertaken by 638 consultant surgeons between 2012 and 2020.

Specifically, the team explored the link between surgeon volume and a range of outcomes following shoulder replacement surgery. This included the effect on serious adverse events, reoperations, and prolonged hospital stays (more than three nights). With surgeons performing under 10.4 procedures yearly, patients faced a higher risk of revision surgery – in some cases twice the risk as those surgeons performing over this amount!

This new data, highlighting better outcomes with high volume surgeons, mimics findings from more extensive hip and knee replacements data.

How risky is shoulder replacement surgery?

Shoulder replacement surgery is usually required when there is severe osteoarthritis affecting the shoulder joint. After exploring non-surgical options, surgery is recommended to treat the symptoms of pain, stiffness and loss of mobility, to help improve a patient’s quality of life.

Generally, complications from shoulder surgery are quite rare and will depend on your individual circumstances, medical history and severity of the condition. Sometimes, a new shoulder injury may weaken the supporting muscles or loosen the implant causing pain and stiffness. However, revision surgery may be required when complications do arise.

Questions to ask your shoulder surgeon

As well as asking how many shoulder replacement procedures your surgeon has performed in the last year and their success and revision rates, it is important to ask what potential complications you can expect. It is also important to ask what the alternatives are to having a shoulder replacement and what happens if you don’t have surgery at this time.

To learn more about shoulder replacement surgery, please get in touch to arrange a consultation with the London Shoulder Specialists.