Shoulder replacement surgery, while not as common as other replacement surgeries, might be necessary if a worker suffers a severe shoulder fracture in a workplace accident. If conservative forms of treatment don't work, shoulder joint replacement may help relieve joint pain and discomfort.
When a Worker May Require Shoulder Replacement Surgery
Falls onto the shoulder are a common cause of fractures. An example is a warehouse worker who is on a ladder moving boxes on a high shelf and falls several feet, landing on his shoulder. With a severe break, such as if the upper bone shatters, a doctor may not be able to piece the bones back together, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), which may necessitate a replacement.
Depending on the fracture, the doctor may try other forms of treatment such as:
- physical therapy; and
- cortisone injections.
But it may not be enough to relieve pain or restore function. Those who can no longer perform routine tasks that require reaching may benefit from a shoulder joint replacement. Also, if the pain interferes with sleep, causes weakness and/or a loss of motion in the shoulder, the doctor may recommend shoulder replacement surgery.
Types of Shoulder Replacement Surgeries
A doctor will evaluate the worker's injury to determine the most appropriate type of surgery. One type of surgery involves implantation of a glenoid component. The glenoid is the socket into which the upper arm bone fits. This type of surgery is most often performed when the rotator cuff tendons are intact. So if they're stretched or torn, the doctor may choose another kind of surgery.
Another type is a stemmed hemiarthroplasty, in which the ball (or head of the humerus) gets replaced. This is an option when there's a severe fracture to the humeral head and/or when there's a severe tear to the rotator cuff tendons.
When the surgeon only replaces the joint surface of the humeral head, it's called resurfacing hemiarthroplasty. It's a preferred option over stemmed hemiarthroplasty, especially for active and/or young patients. It's possible to follow up with a total shoulder replacement if it becomes necessary down the road.
Another type is reverse total shoulder replacement. It's recommended for those with severe weakness in the arms caused by torn rotator cuffs, reports the AAOS. Or it's performed when a patient underwent shoulder replacement in the past and it didn't work.
The surgeon will attach a metal ball to the shoulder bone which will fit into a plastic socket. Instead of using the torn rotator cuff to lift the arm, the individual can use his/her deltoid muscle.
Workers' Compensation Can Cover Shoulder Replacement Surgery
As long as the accident occurred during the scope of the worker's employment, workers' compensation benefits can pay for the cost of treatment. Medical benefits cover the shoulder replacement and other healthcare-related costs, while disability benefits provide a portion of lost wages while unable to work.
If the worker suffers permanent injuries, he or she may recover permanent partial disability benefits, depending on the severity of the disability.
An attorney at Walker, Billingsley & Bair can help injured workers in Iowa pursue fair workers' compensation benefits and appeal any denied claims. Call us at (888) 435-9886 to set up a free consultation.