A Latarjet procedure is an operation designed to increase the stability of your shoulder. In this procedure, a bony protuberance from within the shoulder (the coracoid process) and its attached muscles are transferred to the front of the ball and socket joint. This increases stability to the shoulder joint by increasing the depth of the ball and socket joint. The newly positioned muscular attachments act like a sling around the shoulder to further improve stability. Surgery is performed via an ‘open’ approach, where I perform a 5-6cm incision in the skin at the front of the shoulder to access the joint.
Latarjet procedure: Background
The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint, with a large ball (humerus) and a shallow socket (glenoid). This arrangement allows the shoulder to be the most mobile joint in the body, but makes the joint less stable. Additional stability is given by:
- The labrum, a cartilage rim that surrounds the socket and makes it larger and deeper.
- Ligaments, which are thickenings of the capsule surrounding the joint.
- Rotator cuff muscles, which surround and move the joint.
Dislocation of the shoulder joint occurs when the ball (humerus) moves completely away from its normal position in the socket (glenoid). This may resolve spontaneously or require relocation by a doctor. Subluxation refers to partial dislocation of the shoulder joint, where the ball is not completely separated from the socket. For many people, the first episode of shoulder dislocation is a traumatic experience. If dislocations continue to occur, they may be triggered by even trivial shoulder movements.
Latarjet procedure: Day of surgery
You will be admitted to hospital on the day of surgery. My assistant will provide you with your admission time and fasting instructions prior to your arrival.
Latarjet procedure: Post-operative care
Most patients are discharged from hospital after an overnight stay. During your inpatient stay, the focus will be on keeping you comfortable and commencing the first phases of rehabilitation.
First 2 weeks
There will be an adhesive dressing over the incision. Provided this dressing stays dry and clean, it does not need to be changed when you return home. The stitches within the skin do not need to be removed as they are dissolvable.
Regular icing of your shoulder is helpful for reducing pain and swelling post-operatively. You should aim to ice your shoulder for 20 minutes, 4-6 times per day, depending on your level of pain and swelling.
Physiotherapy and exercises
A physiotherapist will see you the morning after your surgery to discuss some light exercises that can be performed in the post-operative period. The emphasis in the first 2 weeks after the Latarjet procedure is to return to light range of movement, which prevents excessive stiffness in the joint.
You will wake up after your operation with your arm placed in a sling. The sling helps to rest the shoulder, reduce discomfort, and protect the surgical repair. You may come out of the sling regularly for the exercises prescribed by the physiotherapist, or for times of rest when the arm is relaxed and close to your body.
Latarjet procedure: Follow up
I will review you in the rooms approximately 2 weeks after surgery. If you are unsure of your follow-up appointment, please call my assistant.
The sling is generally removed two weeks after surgery. We will start to introduce more range of movement exercises, and I suggest that you start to see your regular physiotherapist to continue longer-term rehabilitation.
Between 6 to 12 weeks, there is focus on strengthening exercises to rehabilitate the muscles around the shoulder joint.
12 weeks onward
Higher-level shoulder activities are introduced, depending on your pain and tolerance levels. The shoulder can be ‘tested’ more, with a focus on strengthening and returning to desired activities.
Latarjet procedure: Return to play
We will discuss your expected return to play before surgery. In general, patients will feel like they’ve recovered the majority of their shoulder function between 3 to 4 months after their operation.
Latarjet procedure: Pain relief
Regular paracetamol and an anti-inflammatory (if indicated) are the mainstays of pain relief after surgery. You will be prescribed some stronger medications which can be helpful in the early post-operative period.
For many patients, my anaesthetist will discuss the option of using a ‘nerve block’ to help reduce your pain levels in the time just after surgery. This is a procedure where the anaesthetist injects a long-acting local anaesthetic to the nerves supplying the upper limb using ultrasound guidance. This procedure eliminates or greatly reduces pain in the first 12-24 hours after surgery, and is very helpful in maintaining your comfort levels in the early post-operative period. There’s no absolute need to have the nerve block, and my anaesthetist will discuss the option of this with you prior to surgery.
Latarjet procedure: Driving
You should not be driving while wearing a sling. You need to be able to independently control your shoulder and upper limb before driving. Often, 2 to 4 weeks are required after surgery before beginning to drive again.
Latarjet procedure: Return to work
It is usually feasible to return to light duties after the two-week post-operative check, although it is important to remember that with more activity you may have some discomfort. For those doing heavy work, return to work can take between 6 and 12 weeks, depending on work requirements.
Labral repair: Problems
Superficial infection is not very common but can happen. It usually presents as redness and increased tenderness of the skin around the surgical wound, and generally resolves with a short course of oral antibiotics.
Deep infection is rare representing between 5-10 days post-operatively, with increasing pain, swelling and a marked decrease in your range of movement. Joint infections require admission to hospital, with washing out of the shoulder and intravenous antibiotics commenced as soon as possible.
If you are concerned about an infection, please contact me as soon as possible. During business hours the best point of contact is via my assistant on 08 9212 4292. After hours, please contact the hospital where you had your surgery, and ask them to contact me. Failing this, go to your nearest Emergency Department for assessment.
Stiffness All shoulders undergoing surgery will feel somewhat stiff in the first 6-12 weeks. Occasionally, patients develop ‘frozen shoulder,’ which can make the stiffness quite marked. Rarely, I might suggest a manipulation or a further arthroscopic procedure to release the shoulder capsule if stiffness is severe.
Re-dislocation following a labral repair is uncommon. If you do experience a redislocation, please contact my rooms for review.
Nerve damage supplying function to the arm is possible with any surgery around the shoulder, although the overall risk is low and permanent injury to nerves is rare. If nerve damage occurs, it is often temporary (known as neuropraxia) and partial or full recovery can be expected with time.
If you are considering having a shoulder stabilisation, please make an appointment to discuss your treatment options.