Anesthesia and Analgesia in the Patient with an Unstable Shoulder

Ismael Acevedo Bambaren*, Fernando Dominguez, Maria Elena Elias Martin, Silvia Domínguez
Ramón y Cajal Hospital. Anesthesia and Intensive Care Department. Madrid. Spain

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© 2017 Bambaren et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at Ramon y cajal hospital - anesthesia Colmenar 9 street madrid, Spain, Madrid, Madrid 28034, Spain; Tel: 34655668479; E-mails:;



The patient with an unstable shoulder represents a challenge for the anesthesiologist. Most patients will be young individuals in good health but both shoulder dislocation reduction, a procedure that is usually performed under specific analgesia in an urgent setting, and instability surgery anesthesia and postoperative management present certain peculiarities.

Material and Methods:

For the purpose of the article, 78 references including clinical trials and reviews were included. The review was organized considering the patient that presents an acute shoulder dislocation and the patient with chronic shoulder instability that requires surgery. In both cases the aspects like general or regional anesthesia, surgical positions and postoperative pain management were analyzed.


The patient with an acutely dislocated shoulder is usually managed in the emergency room. Although reduction without analgesia is often performed in non-medical settings, an appropriate level of analgesia will ease the reduction procedure avoiding further complications. Intravenous analgesia and sedation is considered the gold standard but requires appropriate monitorization and airway control. Intraarticular local analgesic injection is considered also a safe and effective procedure. General anesthesia or nerve blocks can also be considered. The surgical management of the patient with shoulder instability requires a proper anesthetic management. This should start with an exhaustive preoperative evaluation that should be focused in identifying potential respiratory problems that might be complicated by local nerve blocks. Intraoperative management can be challenging, especially for patients operated in beach chair position, for the relationship with problems related to cerebral hypoperfusion, a situation related to hypotension events directly linked to patient positioning. Different nerve blocks will help attaining excellent analgesia both during and after the surgical procedure. An interescalene nerve block should be considered the best technique, but in certain cases, other blocks can be considered.

Keywords: Anesthesia management, Regional anesthesia, Shoulder instability anesthesia, Single nerve blockade, Continuous nerve blockade, Intraoperative positions during shoulder arthroscopic.