Common Shoulder Surgery Is Usually Unnecessary, Finnish Study Finds

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One of the most common surgeries performed in the Western world today – shoulder impingement surgery – is no more beneficial than a placebo treatment, according to researchers at the University of Helsinki in Finland.

This study, called the Finnish Shoulder Impingement Arthroscopy Controlled Trial (FIMPACT), involved 189 people who had chronic shoulder pain that persisted for at least three months in spite of conservative treatment (rest, pain relievers), physiotherapy, and steroid injections. Study participants were randomized to receive one of three additional treatment options: shoulder impingement surgery (also called subacromial decompression), placebo surgery (diagnostic arthroscopy involving arthroscopic examination of the shoulder, but no therapeutic procedures), or supervised exercise therapy.

After two years, all three groups experienced significant less shoulder pain, but among the study participants who had had surgery, those in the placebo group were unlikely to realize they didn’t actually have decompression surgery. Over time, the  decompression surgery group had slightly less pain than those in the exercise therapy group, but their improvement was not clinically significant, according to the researchers.

Sourced from: BMJ