Shrugging off shoulder reconstruction myths

In a world-first study, researchers have identified the best way to fix shoulders damaged when elite athletes or active people rupture the ligaments.

Researchers at the Prince of Wales Hospital Orthopaedic Research Laboratories in Sydney have also found that textbook descriptions of the way ligaments attach to the bones in shoulders is wrong for at least thirty percent of people.

Mr Richard Harris found this surprising discovery as part of his PhD studies with the University of New South Wales. He reported on his findings today (4 May) at ScienceNOW! in Melbourne.

Mr Harris carried out the world’s first detailed study of the shoulder’s acromioclavicular (AC) joint and its supporting ligaments.

“It is very common for elite athletes to damage this joint,” Mr Harris says. “We know the value of replacing or reconstructing the ruptured or supporting ligaments but there has been controversy about the best technique to use.

“As a result, a completely dislocated AC joint has often been surgically neglected for lack of a scientifically tested surgical procedure.”

As a result of extensive testing, researchers demonstrated that the best technique to use was the Bosworth screw procedure.

“While other common repair techniques may also be strong, they tend to be very elastic and stop the proper functioning of the shoulder,” Mr Harris says.

Mr Harris carried out his research with world leading orthopaedic and shoulder specialists including Dr Bill Walsh, Professor David Sonnabend and Dr Jerome Goldberg. The testing was done on human cadavers using state-of-the-art facilities at the Prince of Wales Hospital.

“Our testing facilities allowed us to simulate realistic loads that would be placed on patients and observe the shoulder’s response when implanted with prosthetic materials,” Mr Harris says.

“The data from this study provides surgeons with valuable information when making decisions as to the best form of surgical management.”

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