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Shoulder surgery and treatment

Overview of shoulder surgery and treatment

If joint pain is causing you discomfort and limiting your daily activities, shoulder surgery can help you get back to doing the things you love. Shoulder pain can develop from overuse, a sports injury, or inflammation from a disease or condition.

At Dignity Health, our orthopedic doctors are trained in the latest technology and treatments, including arthroscopic and minimally invasive surgery. If your doctor has recommended shoulder surgery, find a specialist to receive the orthopedic care you need.

Why it’s necessary

Because the shoulder is the most flexible joint in the body, it is also highly susceptible to injury. As we age, our joints tend to weaken, increasing the likelihood of injury. If you have a damaged or hurt shoulder joint, your doctor may recommend shoulder surgery to repair it.

Shoulder surgery becomes necessary when a patient is experiencing joint pain that does not get better with non-surgical treatments such as physical therapy, medication, and injections. Sometimes early surgical intervention is a crucial step to prevent a problem from getting worse.

Before you decide on shoulder surgery, talk with a doctor at Dignity Health about your treatment options. Your doctor will take a thorough medical history to fully understand the nature of your pain, past treatments, and limitations. The next step is to conduct a physical exam to assess your range of motion, strength, instability, and tenderness. Finally, your doctor will order diagnostic tests such as an x-ray, MRI, or CT scan to evaluate the shoulder in different positions and get images of the soft tissues that cannot be accessed from just a physical evaluation.

The medical history, physical exam, and diagnostic tests will provide your doctor with the information needed to create a diagnosis and treatment plan.

Common conditions treated with shoulder surgery

Your doctor may recommend shoulder surgery to treat:

    Arthritis, inflammation caused by osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis

    Bursitis, inflammation of the bursa sac

    Cartilage damage, loose or torn cartilage

    Fractures of the upper arm bone or collarbone

    Frozen shoulder, shoulder joint stiffness, also called adhesive capsulitis

    Rotator cuff tears, both partial and complete

    Shoulder dislocation that keeps recurring

    Shoulder separation, partial or complete tearing of the shoulder ligaments

    Tendonitis, inflammation of your tendon

    Torn or damaged tendons or ligaments

Our team of orthopedic surgeons and specialists is passionate about providing expert care to treat your shoulder pain. For diagnosis, treatment, and shoulder surgery, visit your nearest Dignity Health location.


We perform the following types of shoulder surgery:

    Arthroplasty. Dignity Health doctors perform arthroplasty to resurface or replace the joint. During this procedure, your surgeon removes any arthritic or damaged bone surface and replaces it with artificial material or implants (prosthesis). This may be either a partial or total joint replacement. Your doctor may recommend shoulder replacement surgery to treat conditions such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and fractures.

    Arthroscopic shoulder surgery (also called arthroscopy). This procedure is performed using a small instrument, called an arthroscope, to look inside your shoulder joint. Your doctor may recommend arthroscopy to treat a dislocated shoulder, tendonitis, frozen shoulder, or torn cartilage, or to repair muscle problems.

    Rotator cuff repair. Your surgeon will reattach your torn rotator cuff in order to repair a torn tendon in your shoulder joint.

    Soft tissue repair is done to treat damage to your shoulder muscles.

    Bone fracture or dislocation repair is performed to treat shoulder dislocations and fractured collarbones or arm bones.

    Bursectomy is used to treat a damaged bursa sac (a fluid-filled sac that provides joint cushioning).


    Shoulder surgery is typically a safe procedure, but as with any surgery, there are risks:


    Bleeding or blood clots


    Breathing issues

    Allergic reaction

    Shoulder stiffness


    Failure to relieve symptoms

    Damage to the shoulder cartilage

    Blood vessel or nerve injury

Before your procedure, your care team will discuss these risks and go over any concerns you have.

The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.