Failed Shoulder Surgery

Failed shoulder surgery is a surgery that did not meet expectations and resulted in recurring pain or other unwanted symptoms. All surgeries are associated with risks, some have a higher risk than others. The most commonly reported failed shoulder surgeries include rotator cuff repairs and shoulder stabilization for shoulder instability. 

Symptoms of Failed Shoulder Surgery

The symptoms of failed shoulder surgery depend on the original shoulder condition and the procedure performed and can vary from person to person. However, you are likely to have one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Continued pain
  • Stiffness
  • Limited range of motion
  • Weakness
  • Instability
  • Crepitus (cracking sound)

Causes for Failed Shoulder Surgery

Several factors may contribute to failed shoulder surgery: 

  • Using oversized implants for joint replacement 
  • Unwanted bone restricting movement
  • Formation of adhesions (scar tissue)
  • Infection
  • Nerve injury leading to weakness
  • Failure to heal a fracture 
  • Failure of the rotator cuff repair
  • Reaction to polyethylene or polymethylmethacrylate (implants)
  • Poor rehabilitation following surgery

Diagnosis of Failed Shoulder Surgery

To begin, your doctor will assess the history of your shoulder problem and review the reports of the previous procedure. Additionally, you may be asked to provide:

  • Information on the onset of symptoms
  • Facts on injuries to your shoulder, if any
  • Information on physical therapy and rehabilitation after the surgery
  • Your doctor will then:
  • Perform a physical examination focusing on your shoulder 
  • Order imaging tests to view the joint and site of surgery and identify the cause of failure 

Treatment of Failed Shoulder Surgery

Depending on the cause, failed shoulder surgery may respond to non-surgical or surgical intervention.

Your doctor may use conservative methods and assess how your shoulder responds to these treatments. You may be prescribed medications and corticosteroid injections.  A physical therapy program may be recommended to stretch and strengthen your affected shoulder.

If your shoulder does not respond to conservative treatments, surgery may be recommended. Your second surgery will be aimed at alleviating your shoulder pain, improving the condition of your shoulder and increasing the functionality of your shoulder.

Stiffness may be treated by stretching exercises or surgery to remove adhesions. Revision surgery may be performed to improve stability, balance tissues, and correct loose implants. Shoulder weakness following rotator cuff repair may need a re-repair. A non-healing fracture may need re-fixation.