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Open Shoulder Surgery


Open shoulder surgery is surgery through an incision in the area of the shoulder and is most commonly used for treatment of shoulder fractures, shoulder replacements, acromioclavicular joint reconstructions, biceps repair, clavicle fractures and many other procedures.

What to Expect

Open shoulder surgery is done either as an outpatient or as an overnight stay procedure. Prior to surgery you will be asked to see your primary care doctor for “medical clearance”. They may check blood tests, EKG, and a chest x-ray in addition to other tests they find indicated.

Once surgery is scheduled, the hospital or surgery center will contact you ahead of time to provide specific details about your procedure. Please make sure to ask any questions you have and follow the instructions on when to arrive and especially on when to stop eating or drinking prior to surgery.

On the day of surgery, the anesthesia staff will talk with you about anesthesia options. You will be asleep for the procedure and often a regional nerve block is recommended to numb the shoulder and arm for pain relief.

Once in the operating room, you will be positioned so that a clear view of the inside of your shoulder can be obtained. A member of the surgical team will clean the skin over the shoulder with an antiseptic solution and a sterile drape will cover your shoulder and arm and your forearm will be placed in a holding device to ensure your arm stays still.

Typically the incision is made over the fracture or area of reconstruction. Access to the shoulder joint itself is done through the deltopectoral interval, an interval between two muscles at the front of the shoulder. At the end of surgery the incision is closed with stitches and covered them with a large, soft bandage.

Postoperatively you will stay in the recovery room for 1 to 2 hours before being discharged home or to the hospital floor. Nurses will monitor your responsiveness and provide pain medication, if needed. You will need someone to drive you home and stay with you for at least the first night if you go home.

Recovery from shoulder surgery depends on the procedure performed but takes several weeks and a few months before full recovery. You may find it comfortable sleeping in a reclining chair or propped up in bed for the first few days after surgery. Physical therapy will play a vital role after surgery in regaining strength and motion.