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WMJ study brings to light a significant increase of shoulder surgeries in Wisconsin

The incidence of shoulder surgeries performed in Wisconsin is of major concern, according to the authors of a study published in the December issue of WMJ.

Their research shows that a specific shoulder surgical procedure—superior labrum anterior and posterior (SLAP) repair—increased by 91.4 percent between 2002 and 2010.

“It is likely that SLAP tears are over-diagnosed and almost certain that too many SLAP repairs are being performed and, potentially in this study, in women,” the authors, Robert H. Ablove, MD, Allison Aul and Geoffrey Baer, MD, PhD, wrote.

Data for procedure code 81.83, “other shoulder repair,” was pulled from the Wisconsin Hospital Association statewide database from 2002 to 2010 for this study. It included SLAP repairs, but excluded other common shoulder repair procedures.

In 2002, 5,642 SLAP repair surgeries were performed. By 2010, that number had reached 10,812. The incidence of SLAP procedures also rose significantly—83.1 percent—in that same timeframe: 103.8 per 100,000 people in 2002 to 190.1 per 100,000 people in 2010. The ratio of male to female patients undergoing the surgery remained fairly constant at 3:2. The average age of male patients was 36.4, while female patients were 40.9.

The authors noted that SLAP repairs are not benign procedures and carry a risk of complications that include stiffness, rotator cuff tears and articular cartilage damage.

“There is still a need for better, more specific physical tests to confirm symptomatic SLAP pathology and treatment needs to reflect the age and needs of the patient,” the authors wrote.

WMJ is a peer-reviewed journal published by the Wisconsin Medical Society six times a year. Click here for a PDF version of the study.

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