First-time shoulder dislocations are common, with an incidence of about 25 per 100,000 people. As my website mentions, recurrent dislocation is the most common complication. Males and age under 25 years are the most common risk factor for having further instability. However, girls 16 years or younger are also at risk.
Several studies have now demonstrated the benefits of early (i.e. after the first shoulder dislocation) surgery. The usual damage when a young person dislocates their shoulder is a tearing of the glenoid labrum. The labrum is a ring of fibrocartilage that attaches to the glenoid socket. Early surgery aims to reattach the labrum back to the bone before the shoulder is further damaged.
A recent study1 has shown that the benefits of surgery continue out to ten years. These benefits include preventing further instability episodes and improving shoulder function. The study wasn’t designed to look at the long-term risk of developing shoulder arthritis. However, previous research suggests that stabilising the shoulder may slow down the risk of developing an arthritic shoulder.
Take home message: if a person has their first shoulder dislocation, they should be assessed by an orthopaedic surgeon for their risk of further problems.
- L.Z. Yapp et al: Anterior Dislocation of the Shoulder: Long-Term Follow-up of a Randomized, Double-Blinded Trial. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2020; 102: 460-7