Shoulder replacements surging in US, experts say more could benefit

As orthopedic surgical technology continues to improve and America's aging population seek treatments to relieve pain and improve the functionality of arthritic shoulders, the rates of shoulder replacement surgeries continue to rise.

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, the number of total and partial shoulder replacements increased from about 18,000 in 2000 to more than 45,000 in 2013. The trend is reflected at Maywood, Ill.-based Loyola Medicine where orthopedic surgeons performed 10 times more total and partial shoulder replacements in 2015 than in 2010.

While less common, shoulder replacements are comparable to hip and knee replacement procedures for successfully relieving joint pain, according to the AAOS.

"Many patients who could potentially benefit are not aware that a shoulder replacement is an option that can relieve pain and significantly improve function," said Nickolas Garbis, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Loyola Medicine, specializing in shoulder and elbow disorders and replacement.

Overall, shoulder replacements have a lasting life span. Ninety percent of patients surgically repaired shoulders are still functioning after 10 years and 80 percent after 20 years. While awareness is rising regarding the potential benefits of shoulder surgery, many patients who could benefit from the procedure remain unaware.

"A total shoulder replacement can be a grand slam," said Dane Salazar, MD, an orthopedic surgeon with Loyola also specializing in shoulder and elbow disorders and replacement. "I've had patients who told me they wished they had undergone the surgery five years earlier."

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