Surgery for Shoulder Dislocations

When Is Surgery Necessary for a Shoulder Dislocation

Science Photo Library / Getty Images

Treatment of a shoulder dislocation depends on a number of factors, and some patients may require surgery. When a patient dislocates their shoulder from a traumatic event (e.g. a sports collision, fall, automobile accident, etc.) they are at-risk for developing recurrent dislocations in the future. The chance of shoulder dislocations becoming a recurring problem depends most significantly on the age of the patient.

The percentage of re-dislocations are about:

  • Less than 20 years old: 90%
  • 20-30 years old: 75%
  • 30-40 years old: 30%

These are ballpark figures, and other factors contribute to an individual patient's risk of redislocating their shoulder.

Is Surgery Necessary?

Traditionally, most orthopedic surgeons would not choose to operate on a patient after a first dislocation. Rather, after a brief period of immobilization, followed by physical therapy, the patient would gradually resume their normal activities. If the patient sustained a second, or recurrent, dislocation, then surgery was considered.

More recently, there is good scientific evidence to support early surgery, especially in young patients who are at a high risk for redislocation. If you sustain a shoulder dislocation, and are interested in surgery, discuss with your doctor the potential benefits of surgical versus nonsurgical treatment.


Kirkley A, et al. "Prospective randomized clinical trial comparing the effectiveness of immediate arthroscopic stabilization versus immobilization and rehabilitation in first traumatic anterior dislocations of the shoulder: long-term evaluation." Arthroscopy. 2005 Jan;21(1):55-63.

Continue Reading