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Reverse Total Shoulder Replacement Patients See 85 Percent Rate of Return to Sports

New York, NY—March 5, 2016

With more patients wanting to lead an active lifestyle after total shoulder replacement surgery, new questions are being asked of surgeons on what to expect post-operation. Reverse total shoulder arthroplasty (RTSA), a type of total shoulder replacement surgery, has increased in frequency because of expanded indications which include rotator cuff tears, humerus fractures and revision surgeries, all of which garner younger patients.

"Historically, RTSA was known a salvage operation as it was designed  to alleviate pain and improve daily functions such as brushing your hair and doing household chores," said Lawrence Gulotta, MD, sports medicine and shoulder surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS).  "Now, as patients see increased success, they expect more function after."

A new study from HSS is the first to look at case data to help manage these expectations for both physicians and patients. The study found that patients undergoing RTSA had an 85 percent rate of return to one or more sporting activities, approximately 5 months after surgery. Some active patients even started new sports post-surgery. Age (under 70 years old) was a significant predictor of a higher rate of return to sports.

Fitness sports had the highest rate of return at 81 percent followed by swimming at 66 percent. High demand sports such as skiing and tennis saw lower rates of return at 28 and 25 percent, respectively.

Previous to this study, all surgeons followed a similar postoperative protocol where they encouraged patients to return to previous recreational activities but to avoid contact sports.

Through this study, the researchers established the most comprehensive data set of RTSA patients including both pre- and post-operative reporting of fitness activities. The findings offer valuable information to help manage patient and surgeon expectations.

"This study addresses the question of whether patients can return to sports, not if they should return," added Dr. Gulotta, the lead investigator. "It is important to note we do not yet know the long-term implications of returning to sports after RTSA."



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