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What is Shoulder Reconstruction?

By Sandra Koehler
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The surgical procedure known as shoulder reconstruction involves repairing and when necessary, rebuilding the shoulder joint to gain maximum function. Performed when injury, infection or pain issues limit shoulder movement, surgery may be necessary to increase the shoulder’s overall stability and range of motion. Shoulder reconstruction may also be performed when there is damage to the integrity of the shoulder requiring the removal and replacement of impaired sections to restore movement.

The shoulder joins the arm to the torso through the glenohumeral joint. The glenohumeral joint is a ball and socket connection where the humerus, or upper arm bone nestles in a rounded opening called the glenoid fossa. This attachment is made by a network of tendons and ligaments which hold the bones close together and allow for the arm and shoulder to move.

Since the glenohumeral joint can pivot, the shoulder is able to perform more movement than other joints in the body. Though more mobile, this type of joint is complex and can be easily compromised. Injuries can occur to any part of the shoulder joint including the supporting tendons and ligaments causing pain and decreasing the amount of movement. Performing shoulder reconstruction can restore normal functioning.

Shoulder problems may also occur through infections. Sepsis, or an infection of the blood, can cause widespread inflammation or swelling and damage the glenohumeral joint. Depending on the severity of injury to the shoulder components, shoulder reconstruction may be necessary once the infection has been treated.

Most shoulder reconstruction surgeries are performed through a medical procedure called arthroscopic reconstruction. This is when the surgeon uses a small instrument which is inserted through a small incision in the shoulder. The arthroscope permits the surgeon to see inside the shoulder area to diagnose the problem. It also allows a means to correct the problems without fully opening the shoulder area.

Problems commonly corrected through shoulder reconstruction techniques include ligament damage or instability, frozen shoulder, also called adhesive capsulitis, and tears in the tendons, thick cords that attaches muscles to bones. Nerve impingement and damage to the joint by certain medical conditions such as arthritis can also be treated and corrected through reconstructive surgery.

Reconstruction of the shoulder by inserting an artificial joint may also be performed through an arthroscope. Arthroscopic shoulder reconstruction is less invasive and requires only a small incision. This limits the amount of surgical damage to the shoulder area which in turn decreases recovery time.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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