There is nothing to be gained by operating on a patient with a so-called displaced fracture of the shoulder, says a recent study.
Three weeks with the arm in a sling so that the shoulder is kept inactive yields the same results. The results are based on a study of 88 patients over the age of sixty, all of whom had fractures of the shoulder of the type where the bones are displaced.
The findings were published in the journal of 'PLOS Medicine.'
This often happens in connection with a fall on the shoulder and the traditional treatment for a displaced shoulder fracture is an operation in which the bones are joined again using plates or metal screws.
In the study, half of the patients were operated on, while the other half only had the arm supported by a sling. All 88 patients underwent rehabilitation under the supervision of a physiotherapist and were subsequently followed for two years.
Once the study was completed, the researchers could conclude that there was no difference between the two types of treatment when they were measured on the basis of the patients' own assessment of function, pain, and quality of life.
"The results are thought-provoking in that there is no difference between patients who underwent surgery and those who didn't," said Inger Mechlenburg from the Department of Clinical Medicine at Aarhus University and Aarhus University Hospital.
"Those who underwent surgery don't have better shoulder function or less pain than those who didn't. Our conclusion must, therefore, be that the least intrusive form of treatment shows itself to be the best," added Inger.
Mechlenburg adds: "As there is no difference in the patients' ability to carry out daily chores, their level of pain or quality of life with or without the displaced shoulder fracture surgery, then treatment with only a sling should be preferred, as the patients thereby avoid surgery-related pain and complications."
The researcher is prepared for the results to lead to discussions between professionals because this challenges common practice.
"It's difficult to change clinical practice, especially if it's a question of going from more to less. The fundamental starting point of the study was to find the best form of treatment for precisely this type of injury."
"We've provided evidence that there is no beneficial effect of surgery, and the various healthcare services should address this fact," she further added. (ANI)