Natural History of Anterior Shoulder Instability

Eduardo Palma Carpinteiro*, Andre Aires Barros
1 Hospital da Luz - Orthopaedics, av. lusiada 100 lisbon 1500-650, Portugal

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© Carpinteiro and Barros; Licensee Bentham Open.

open-access license: This is an open access article licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial 4.0 International Public License (CC BY-NC 4.0) (, which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Hospital da Luz - Orthopaedics, av. lusiada 100 lisbon 1500-650, Portugal; E-mail:



The shoulder is the most complex joint in the body. The large freedom of motion in this joint is the main cause of instability. Instability varies in its degree, direction, etiology and volition and there is a large spectrum of conditions.


Based on literature research and also in our own experience, we propose to elucidate the reader about the natural history of instability and its importance for the appropriate management of this pathology, by answering the following questions:

What happens in the shoulder after the first dislocation? Which structures suffer damage? Who are the patients at higher risk of recurrence? How does the disease evolve without treatment? Will surgical treatment avoid future negative outcomes and prevent degenerative joint disease? Who should we treat and when?


80% of anterior-inferior dislocations occur in young patients. Recurrent instability is common and multiple dislocations are the rule. Instability is influenced by a large number of variables, including age of onset, activity profile, number of episodes,delay between first episode and surgical treatment.


Understanding the disease and its natural evolution is determinant to decide the treatment in order to obtain the best outcome. It is crucial to identify the risk factors for recurrence. Delay in surgical treatment, when indicated, leads to worse results. Surgical technique should address the type and severity of both soft tissue and bone lesions, when present.

Keywords: Shoulder, Instability, Natural, History, Recurrence, Managment.