Shoulder surgery little better than placebo

Analgesics, physiotherapy and steroid injections suggested for subacromial shoulder pain

Decompression surgery does not reduce subacromial shoulder pain any more than arthroscopy and is little better than no treatment at all, a major study shows.

Surgery to remove acromial spurs and debride soft tissue from people with shoulder impingement is no better than arthroscopy alone, according to a randomised trial conducted by Oxford University in the UK.

The study involved 274 patients who reported shoulder pain for three months prior, despite having physiotherapy and steroid injections.

They were then randomised to decompression surgery, arthroscopy without intervention or no treatment.

At six months, patients who had decompression surgery and those who had arthroscopy surgery rated their pain and function similarly, (32.7 points vs 34.2 points).