Shoulder Surgery Helped Relieve Arthritis Pain

Joint replacement surgery for rheumatoid arthritis in the shoulders relieved pain

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Rheumatoid arthritis is a common cause of chronic shoulder pain but a new study shows that surgery may be the best treatment option for many people.

This study showed that shoulder joint replacement surgery was a reliable, long-term option for treating pain in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

The researchers said that shoulder surgery is usually tried after medication and physical therapy fail. These researchers also said that many patients are able to drive and sleep on their repaired side within six weeks of shoulder replacement.

"Discuss treatment options for your arthritis with a doctor."

This study was authored by John Sperling, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Mayo Clinic, and colleagues.

Dr. Sperling and his team studied 303 patients with rheumatoid arthritis who had either a full or partial shoulder replacement at Mayo Clinic. The patients were followed by physicians for a minimum of five years.

The surgeries were all performed between January 1976 and December 1991. This includes 108 partial and 195 total shoulder joint replacements in 247 patients.

The researchers defined total replacement as replacing both sides of the joint, while partial replacement only replaced one side of the shoulder joint.

This study showed that of patients who received total replacement shoulder surgery, 96 percent were alive and required no additional surgery on the affected shoulder after five years. After 10 years, 93 percent were alive and did not need further surgery.

This study also showed that of people who had a partial replacement shoulder surgery, 89 percent were alive and required no additional surgery on the affected shoulder after five years, and after 10 years, 88 percent were alive and required no further surgery.

“I think it’s quite encouraging,” said Dr. Sperling, an orthopedic surgeon at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. “What we’ve learned from this study is that if people do develop significant pain in their shoulder due to arthritis associated with rheumatoid arthritis, shoulder arthroplasty really is a predictable and reliable operation to help them improve their function and relieve pain.”

Dr. Sperling and colleagues concluded that both total and partial replacements were a reliable solution for relieving pain and limitations related to lifting or rotating the arm.

These researchers noted that their study was limited by a potential but significant selection bias, with the surgeon choosing the implant type based on several clinical factors, including bone stock and rotator cuff status.

This study was published December 5 in the Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery.

Dr. Sperling has received royalties from Biomet, and study co-author Robert Cofield, MD, has received royalties from Smith-Nephew.

Review Date: 
January 14, 2014
Last Updated:
February 13, 2014