It seems that going under the knife is not always the best option, and common joint dislocation does not require surgery to get better.
Acromio-clavicular (AC) joint dislocation is one of the most common shoulder injuries, which is typically recommended to be treated with surgery. However, a new study has tested its effects in comparison to non-surgical therapies. This is the case where the patient would simply wear a sling and engage in physiotherapy, instead of than getting plates and screws in their shoulder.
The AC is frequently injured in sports, common among athletes. It’s also caused by car accidents or more drastic falls. According to orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Michael McKee, when the injury is more severe, surgery seems to be the recommended treatment. However, there is apparently no evidence to support that it’s the better option.
The team of researchers studied a number of 83 patients with severe AC injuries. They analyzed their recovery and noted the difference between the 40 patients who received surgery, and the rest of 43 who went through non-surgical treatment. For two years after the accident, the participants were monitored through regular follow-ups.
They tracked general disability, and the patients’ dissatisfaction with how their shoulders looked. On the more practical end, non-surgical treatment seemed to be the winner.
Patients who opted for the sling and physiotherapy showed greater mobility at their 6 weeks or 12 weeks follow-ups. Furthermore, there was no difference between the two treatments at six months, one year, or two years later. Be it surgery or non-surgery, mobility was just as good for all patients.
However, participants who did not go under the knife showed a speedier recovery. In fact, over 75% of patients with non-surgical treatment were able to return to work just 3 months after the injury. On the other hand, only 43% of surgery patients did the same.
Furthermore, participants who underwent surgery saw to more complications. More worryingly, 7 of them experienced either a loose plate or serious infections, and another 7 suffered from minor infections or numbness in the spot where they had been operated. On the other end, only 2 of the patients treated with non-surgical means had complications, and this was only due to subsequent falls that aggravated their AC dislocation.
This indicates a stark contrast between measures with important drawbacks for the more invasive procedure. However, patients have reported themselves more pleased with the aspect of their shoulder after surgery.
The injury may cause a certain asymmetric appearance that participants called unpleasant. One year later, only 5% of patients reported themselves dissatisfied with the look of their shoulder, while 16% of non-surgical patients claimed the same. Through the second year, the numbers saw to another lean toward the benefit of surgery.
According to the study, 4% of patients who underwent surgical treatment admitted to not being satisfied with the aspect of their shoulder, while 21% of the others did the same. On the good side, non-surgical means seems to provide quicker recovery with virtually no practical drawbacks. On the other, surgical treatments might just look better in the future.
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