Many people who experience shoulder injuries such as rotator cuff tears or serious shoulder arthritis must face the decision whether to undergo surgery to repair these injuries. In some cases, such as extreme complete rotator cuff tears, surgery may be necessary. However, any type of surgery, including shoulder surgery, entails significant risks.
Common Risks of Shoulder Surgery
Like any other kind of surgery, shoulder surgery requires the use of anesthesia, or pain management medications, that may render part of the patient’s body numb or completely render the patient unconscious for the duration of the procedure. In most shoulder arthroscopy procedures, patients receive regional anesthetics that numb the shoulder and parts of the upper body for their procedures.
The anesthesia team will inject the regional anesthetic into the neck or spine close to the surgical site to prepare the patient for surgery. Patients will generally also receive nerve block anesthesia to control pain for the hours following surgery. They will also need pain medication to manage pain for several days or weeks following these procedures. Most surgical teams will also use anesthesia to render their patients unconscious so they do not need to actively experience the discomfort of the procedure.
Anesthesia is not without risks. Some patients have adverse reactions to certain types of anesthetic, and some patients may require more extensive anesthetizing than others. As with any other medical procedure, anesthesia always entails a risk of accidents or misuse, potentially causing permanently damaging or even fatal complications during the procedure. A few possibilities include the formation of blood clots, stroke, heart attack, and the development of pneumonia symptoms.
Recovery Time and Symptom Management Following Surgery
Any surgical procedure will involve extensive recovery time. Before the patient experiences any kind of relief from the original problem that prompted the surgery, the patient will need to recover from the surgery itself. When it comes to shoulder injuries, many patients find that their surgical procedures cause significant pain for many weeks before any relief is noticeable.
Managing the pain caused by surgery typically requires medications. Prescription painkillers are powerful and potentially habit-forming drugs that all patients must only use as directed and with extreme care. Failing to use pain medications appropriately can not only lead to dependency but also interfere with overall recovery.
Shoulder surgery will also cause the formation of scar tissue in the affected area. Scar tissue is less flexible than healthy tissue and many shoulder surgery patients experience limited range of motion following their procedures. In some cases, their doctors might recommend additional procedures to release this scar tissue, but this is yet another surgical procedure that entails the same risks as the previous procedure.
A Possible Alternative to Shoulder Surgery
Advancements in stem cell therapy, also called regenerative medicine, could provide patients struggling with shoulder injuries new options for effective treatment in the near future. Stem cell therapy uses the patient’s own stem cells, collected from their bone marrow and injected into the shoulder, to repair damaged shoulder tissues and relieve the symptoms of common shoulder injuries like rotator cuff tears and shoulder arthritis.
If you experience any type of shoulder injury and wish to avoid surgery, consider the potential benefits of stem cell therapy. Ask your doctor if you are an acceptable candidate for stem cell therapy, and you could enjoy relief from your symptoms without the risks of surgery.