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Shoulder

Whether patients are suffering from arthritis, a sprain, a complex fracture, or a rotator-cuff injury, UT Southwestern Medical Center offers a range of specialized, evidence-based services, including complex shoulder surgery for cases that don’t respond to conservative treatments.

Evidence-Based Orthopaedic Care

The human shoulder is a complex and hardworking joint that is especially prone to injuries and disorders.

The shoulder comprises three bones – the shoulder blade (scapula), collarbone (clavicle), and upper arm bone (humerus) – that are supported by a network of muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Because the top of the humerus is oversized compared to the socket that holds it, the shoulder is the joint with the greatest range of motion. Unfortunately, as a result of its great flexibility, the shoulder is susceptible to injury, whether it’s during athletic activities that involve excessive and repetitive overhead motion or in everyday activities such as gardening. 

Using both nonsurgical and surgical therapies as needed, UT Southwestern’s board-certified orthopaedic specialists evaluate and treat a wide variety of shoulder injuries and disorders to ensure patients can return to their normal activities without worrying about shoulder pain or instability.

Shoulder Conditions

Our team treats the gamut of shoulder conditions, including: 

  • Acromioclavicular (ACL) joint injury
  • Adhesive capsulitis (frozen shoulder)
  • Arthritis
  • Articular cartilage defects
  • Dislocations and separations
  • Fractures (broken bones)
  • Rotator cuff injuries
  • Shoulder instability, which can become chronic
  • Sports-related shoulder injuries
  • Strains and sprains
  • Tendon inflammation, such as tendinitis and bursitis
  • Tendon tears

Symptoms

Patients with shoulder pain and injury can experience symptoms that include:

  • An obviously out-of- place or misshapen scapula, clavicle, or humerus
  • Pain, ranging from mild to severe
  • Restricted movement
  • Swelling, tenderness, bruising, or numbness
  • Stiffness in the shoulder and upper arm
  • Weakness in the shoulder

Diagnosis

Our team of orthopaedic experts diagnoses shoulder pain and injuries by learning about each patient’s history and reported activities and conducting a physical examination.

In many cases, we also order imaging tests. The type of imaging used depends upon the location, severity, and type of suspected injury or condition. Common tests include:

Shoulder Treatments

UT Southwestern physicians work closely with each patient to choose the treatment plan that will alleviate shoulder pain, restore function, and result in the best possible long-term outcomes. 

Our orthopaedic medicine specialists always look for nonsurgical treatments as a first course of action. Conservative therapies include:

  • Immobilizing devices such as slings, casts, or braces
  • Medications to reduce inflammation
  • RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation)

We might also suggest rehabilitative exercises to strengthen the shoulder muscles and prevent future injury.

Shoulder Surgery

When surgery is necessary, our experienced surgeons use minimally invasive techniques whenever possible. They are also skilled at performing highly complex procedures such as total shoulder replacements and more advanced reverse shoulder replacements.

Surgical options include:

  • Arthroscopic surgery: Many injuries such as rotator cuff tears and ACL joint injuries can be treated through arthroscopic surgery. A small incision is made and a tiny camera is inserted into the surgical site to guide surgeons through the procedure. Small surgical instruments are then inserted through the incision to perform the surgery.
  • Open surgery: In more severe cases, or for some older patients, open surgery can provide the best results. With advancements in open surgery techniques and technology, incisions are smaller than ever, making recovery time shorter.

Whatever shoulder treatment is necessary, our orthopaedic medicine specialists work with patients to choose a personalized treatment likely to get them back in action quickly and with the best long-term outcome.

Clinical Trials

Our orthopaedic team is involved in clinical trials that seek to find better ways to prevent, diagnose, and treat shoulder injuries.

Find a Clinical Trial

Search for opportunities to participate in a muscle or bone research study.

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