Shoulder Pain Pump Risk

Weitz & Luxenberg P.C. would like to inform patients of a debilitating condition, postarthroscopic glenohumeral chondrolysis (PAGCL), which results in the permanent degeneration of shoulder cartilage. This devastating and painful process has been linked to a post-surgical treatment for shoulder pain that has been performed across the country.

Pain pumps are used to manage post-operative shoulder surgery pain. They should be placed in the muscle or outside the shoulder joint. However, with little or no study regarding safety, the surgical approach of inserting pain pumps directly in the shoulder joint has been extensive over the last 7 years. This treatment has linked pain pumps to severe joint damage from a condition known as PAGCL, for which there is no cure.

“There does not appear to have been any published safety testing upon which manufacturers were relying to market pain pumps for intra-articular use,” said Paul Pennock, director of the Weitz & Luxenberg defective drug and medical device unit.

In July 2007, The American Journal of Sports Medicine (AJSM) published a study linking use of pain pumps in the shoulder joint to development of shoulder chondrolysis. The study followed 152 patients (and 177 shoulders) that had shoulder arthroscopic surgeries between August 2003 and March 2005.

Twelve of those patients who received arthroscopic stabilization surgeries returned with new shoulder pain 3 to 12 months after surgery and were diagnosed with PAGCL. The researchers concluded that “the use of intra-articular pain pump catheters eluting bupivacaine with epinephrine appear highly associated with postarthroscopic glenohumeral chondrolysis.”

Unfortunately, such independent research comes too late for the people who have received a pain pump after surgery to repair shoulder injuries. Those with chondrolysis are likely to need additional surgeries, and often must have complete shoulder replacements.

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