I Have Arthritis of the Shoulder but I am too Young for Replacement Surgery. What are my options?

Dear Dr. Millett,

I have arthritis in both shoulders and experience chronic shoulder pain. I’ve had arthroscopic surgery and several other procedures to help with my shoulder conditions. I know that I am too young as of now for shoulder replacement surgery but I have heard of a technique called shoulder resurfacing as an alternative treatment for shoulder arthritis. Can you explain what this is?

Tommy R.

Dear Tommy,

While shoulder replacement surgery can be highly effective for patients with severe shoulder arthritis, it represents a procedure that leaves patients with little options once it is performed. Therefore, in young patients, I prefer to use other joint preserving techniques.

Shoulder resurfacing is a type of replacement that removes less bone from the humerus bone than a traditional total shoulder replacement surgery. It is useful for young patients whose arthritis is severe. We like to call this a “bone preserving shoulder replacement.”

Another option is a procedure, known as the CAM procedure (Comprehensive Arthroscopic Management) which uses a variety of arthroscopic surgical joint preserving techniques to remove loose cartilage and labral tissue and to smooth out and reshape the joint. The satisfaction rate for this surgery is high and most young athletes that have this surgery are able to return to their activities after recovery from this procedure.

I have personally developed this procedure for my younger patients where I feel shoulder replacement surgery is not yet a great option and where some form of a joint preserving technique is preferred. Studies have shown significant benefits to patients with improvements in range of motion, alleviation of pain, and dramatic improvements in function.