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Complications that can occur after a shoulder operation

As with any surgery, complications may also occur after shoulder operations. However, these are very rare. A distinction should be made between general complications (such as a reaction of the body as a whole or an organ to an operation, anaesthesia or drugs) and local complications (e.g. infection, bruising, nerve irritation, etc.): Compared to other interventions - e.g. abdominal operations, leg operations, etc - general reactions after a shoulder operation are fairly rare. There are several reasons for this: no need for blood transfusions, shorter operation times than for major procedures (e.g. in the abdominal or chest cavity), comfortable positioning of the patient during surgery, combination of general anaesthesia with a long-lasting nerve block, etc.

The thromboses and pulmonary embolisms that give cause for concern in other operations are extremely rare after shoulder surgery and almost never seen in practice thanks to appropriate preventive measures. Another advantage is that patients are not immobilised after their operation and are able to move all their limbs again. This includes the operated arm, which can be moved on an Arthromot splint and in pendulum exercises. Similarly, local complications such as bruising or infection are no more frequent than with other joint operations and can, if detected at an early stage and treated effectively, always be rectified without any major consequences for the patient or the affected joint. The exceptionally good circulation in the whole shoulder and the liberal covering of muscles and soft tissues are also helpful factors. Nerve irritation, such as signs of paralysis or nerve stimulation, is rare, but serious.

Nerves should not be injured during the operation unless they had already been damaged beforehand in an accident, e.g. as a result of dislocations or fractures. Temporary paralysis of the nerve can occur as a result of increased traction on the arm. However, such damage generally subsides over time. Performing operations effectively and proficiently, even in this anatomically difficult region, is one of the surgeon's duties. The more familiar and more practiced the surgeon is with this region, the less likely it is that unpleasant surprises will arise. The faster, the more sparing and the more refined the surgeon's handling of the tissue, the fewer the complications. Aside from a successful operation, a good, honest doctor-patient relationship can help enormously in achieving positive postoperative rehabilitation, a good end result and also, last but not least, in avoiding complications.