Shoulder arthrodesis: Indications, technique, results, and complications

Authors: Ruhmann et al.

References: J Shoulder Elbow Surg 2005 Jan-Feb;14(1):38-50.

Complications after shoulder arthrodesis are frequent. Through results and comparisons with the literature, the presented article analyzes the correlation of complications with the specific operative techniques, indications, and postoperative treatment. Between 1964 and 2001, a total of 43 cases of shoulder arthrodesis (13 screw and 30 plate arthrodeses) were performed and then analyzed after a mean of 6.7 years (range, 0.5–36 years). Surgery was carried out on 10 female patients (23%) and 33 male patients (77%) with a mean age of 35 years (range, 11–82 years). These patients had the following indications: paralysis (32 [74%]), osteoarthritis or humeral head necrosis (15 [35%]), infection (7 [16%]), and persistent shoulder instability (6 [14%]). The extent of active movement after arthrodesis was 56° abduction (range, 20°–90°) and 60° forward flexion (range, 20°–105°), with an increase in the Constant score in all cases, from a mean of 27 points preoperatively to 57 points postoperatively (difference, 30 points). The patients rated the outcome of surgery as excellent, good, or satisfactory in 91% of cases. Complications after shoulder arthrodesis were noted in 12 of 43 patients (28%). The most frequent complications after screw/plate arthrodesis included pseudarthrosis, 2 (15%)/3 (10%); infection, 1 (8%)/4 (13%); and fracture of the humerus, 0/4 (13%). No specific judgment can be attributed to the different osteosynthesis techniques used in shoulder arthrodesis, either in the cases presented at our clinic or in the literature. Pseudarthrosis appeared to be less frequent in cases of plate arthrodesis compared with screw arthrodesis. However, the application of plates resulted more often in infection, postoperative fractures of the humerus, and the necessity for removal of material. Particularly in patients with paralysis, a shoulder arthrodesis resulted in an improvement in postoperative active function and presented a suitable operative option.


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