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Benefits of shoulder replacement confirmed for RA patients

Information provided on the blog is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or offer treatment plans.

People living with shoulder pain due to rheumatoid arthritis can take some comfort in a recent Mayo Clinic study confirming that shoulder replacement surgery does help those living with excessive pain.

While surgery is never an option to choose flippantly, in this case, it offers consistent benefits.  96% of total shoulder replacement patients from the study did not need additional arthroplasty in the affected shoulder after 5 years.

In this case, “Surgery outweighs the risks.  In general, those folks are very happy.  They’ve hurt their whole lives, and [surgery] can make a huge impact on their lives,” Dr. Scott Trenhaile, sports medicine orthopedic surgeon for Rockford Orthopedic Associates, said.

Dr. Richard Olson, Rockford Orthopedic Rheumatology, pointed out that most people with RA do not undergo joint replacement surgery to improve function but rather to decrease pain.

“The trigger is usually pain level rather than function.  The most common reason [to have joint replacement surgery] is not being able to sleep,” Olson said.

But Dr. Olson also identified that many RA patients have some associated risk factors:

  • Weaker bone
  • More muscle atrophy
  • More rotator cuff tears

And while these are issues, the benefits of surgery far outweigh the risk factors.  Most patients do not see a dramatic increase in function – 10-30% according to Dr. Trenhaile, but the pain is typically gone or mostly gone.

The Takeaway: People suffering severe, sleep-interrupting pain have an option to decrease or eliminate that pain, and they can be confident that the option will benefit them.

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