Shoulder surgery in the elderly
The evolution of shoulder surgery and what this means for older patients
Table of Contents
Shoulder surgery for older patients
Shoulder surgery in the elderly: What has changed and how does this impact you?
If you look back only 2 or 3 decades, as a patient over 60, your shoulder surgeon might have recommended against orthopaedic surgery. But times have changed, and so have surgical techniques and technology.
More people are staying active much later in life, even well into your 80s. This change in lifestyle has pushed the medical field to evolve as well.
Studies have shown that even at a higher age patients do well after rotator cuff repairs, indicating age is not a limiting factor for successful recovery.
New techniques like reverse shoulder replacement have changed the field of shoulder surgery, offering new hope for treating conditions that once were labelled as ‘untreatable’.
Additionally, anaesthetic techniques have also improved to reduce risks for those who have other illnesses.
Innovations in shoulder surgery
Arthroscopic surgery (keyhole) techniques:
Arthroscopy uses small incisions, allowing us to insert a tiny camera and surgical instruments. This minimally invasive technique offers more detailed vision which leads to an improved ability to address all problems in the shoulder joint. There is less risk of developing an infection post-surgery, you recover faster compared to open surgery.
The implants that are used in shoulder surgery have also improved over time. Modern shoulder implants are more reliable and integrate better with the body’s natural anatomy. For older patients this means that they should last longer and have fewer complications in the long run.
Reverse shoulder replacement is a great example of a new technique that offers excellent treatment options for irreparable rotator cuff tears, rotator cuff arthropathy and osteoarthritis to name a few.
All of this is beneficial for older patients, particularly those that are active and play sports. Life expectancy has increased and people are healthier in general due to advances in medicine.
Benefits shoulder surgery in the elderly
Risks vs benefits of shoulder surgery for elderly patients
When considering shoulder surgery for an elderly patient, it’s not a decision made lightly. It requires the collaboration of various professionals including your GP and anyone else in your care team.
We need to understand the family situation as well as how active you are. We bring together various healthcare professionals, including the GP, a physiotherapist, support workers, the anaesthetic team and rehabilitation team.
A successful shoulder operation depends greatly on rehabilitation. Particularly elderly patients often require more help than younger patients. That’s why supportive care may have to be organised. This can include help with shopping, cleaning and cooking. Outpatient physiotherapy may also include home visits.
One of the most important factors for a good and successful recovery is good communication between yourself and your health team. For example, there are restrictions in shoulder use and you need to know about these. Some exercises may be quite difficult to understand and it’s important that you do them correctly. So good communication is essential for optimal results.
Shoulder surgeon for older patients
Key considerations for older patients contemplating shoulder surgery
When older patients come to me wondering if shoulder surgery is still an option, I always emphasise these key considerations:
Quality of life:
The main deciding factor to consider shoulder surgery is your day-to-day comfort and quality of life. If shoulder pain or immobility is hindering your daily activities or preventing you from enjoying life to its fullest, it might be time to think about an intervention, this can include non-surgical and surgical solutions.
Severity of symptoms:
Not all shoulder problems are the same. We need to assess the intensity and the impact of these symptoms on your work, activities of daily living (ADLs) and hobbies.
Your overall health plays a crucial role in the decision. Some existing health conditions could increase the risk associated with anaesthesia.
Shoulder surgeon Perth
Contact Shoulder Surgeon Dr Sven Goebel
When considering shoulder surgery, it’s about more than just the physical aspect of the shoulder; it’s about your overall well-being and the quality of life you want for yourself. Always remember, the final decision is a joint one – made together, based on what’s best for you.