North Hampshire Hospital
The Hampshire Clinic
Basingstoke, Hampshire, UK

Mr John Britton FRCS
Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon

Information for patients undergoing orthopaedic treatment


Advice on
Shoulder Stabilization

Before embarking on shoulder stabilization you should be aware of the following facts. If you have any other questions you should ask your surgeon for further information.


  • Recurrent dislocation:  Shoulder stabilization is performed to prevent recurrent dislocation. It is normally successful, with 85% of patients having completely stable joints afterwards. A few patients experience residual symptoms of instability, although the shoulder no longer dislocates. Surgery fails to stabilize the joint in about 1 patient in 20.


General risks associated with any surgery

  • Cardiovascular problems: Heart attack and stroke can occasionally be caused by anaesthesia and surgery. The risks of this complication are normally exceedingly small in healthy individuals. The risk may be greater if you have pre-existing disease, in which case your anaesthetist / surgeon will discuss this with you.

  • Thromboembolism:     Blood clots may sometimes form in the veins of your legs, a condition known as 'deep vein thrombosis.' This may cause excessive swelling of your legs and may require treatment with blood thinning drugs. Extremely rarely the clot may become detached and travel to the lungs; this is a potentially fatal complication known as a 'pulmonary embolus.' There are some conditions in which the risk of thromboembolism is increased (e.g. patients on the contraceptive pill or HRT), in which case you may be given medication to reduce the risk.

Specific risks of subacromial decompression

  • Failure to relieve symptoms: About 5% patients continue to dislocate their shoulders. 10% patients have the sensation of instability but their shoulder no longer dislocates.

  • Infection:    Infection can complicate any surgery. The risk following shoulder stabilization is small .
    In the event of an infection further surgery may be required.

  • Stiffness:   There is a small risk that your shoulder may be stiff after surgery. The risk is particularly great if you develop a post-operative infection. The degree of stiffness rarely affects function.

  • Nerve and blood vessel injury:  There is a very small risk (<1%) of damage to nerves or blood vessels around the shoulder.

Surgery details

  • Surgery will be done under general anaesthesia. Your anaesthetist will discuss this with you. You may also have a local anaesthetic injection to control post-operative pain; again this will be discussed prior to surgery

  • The operation will take about 1 hour

  • An arthroscopy of the shoulder is often performed first (see information sheet on subacromial decompression). It is sometimes possible to stabilize the shoulder arthroscopically through 2 or 3 very small incisions, but more frequently an incision 5 to 8 cm long is made over the front of the shoulder.

  • After surgery the arm will be immobilized in a sling.

  • It is usual to stay in hospital on the night following surgery.


  • You will be encouraged to do gentle 'pendulum exercises' on the shoulder. These should be done several times a day. At all other times however you should wear a sling.

  • You should continue wearing your sling for 4 to 6 weeks.

  • After your sling has been removed you will require physiotherapy to mobilize your shoulder.

  • Full shoulder movement is normally regained by 3 months.

  • It is normally possible to drive 6 to 8 weeks after surgery.

  • You should avoid contact sports for 6 months after surgery.

  • Your progress will be monitored by periodic outpatient appointments.


For further information please see

John Britton FRCS
Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon

J M Britton 2007

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