Surgeons have an Ethical Duty to Warn of Risks with Shoulder Pain Pumps

Dr. Joseph Carrese, director of the ethics and clinical practice program at John Hopkins Berman Institute of Bio-Ethics, recently stated that he believes surgeons need to inform all of their patients about the risks associated with the use of a pain pump catheter during shoulder surgery. Presently, many arthroscopic shoulder surgeries utilize this tiny catheter, placed directly into the shoulder joint, which infuses pain medication continuously for several days following the procedure. The concern that Dr. Joseph Carrese and many others have, is what happens to patients in the long run, as the result of this device.

Although rare, some patients may develop a condition called Post-Arthroscopic Glenohumeral Chondrolysis, or PAGCL, which occurs when the pain medication deteriorates the bone cartilage between the shoulder joints creating bone on bone contact. This results with patients experiencing extreme pain in the shoulder joint and of a feeling and hearing a popping or clicking when moving their arm. There is no cure or treatment for this debilitating condition, other than a complete shoulder replacement.

Based on growing reports of chondrolysis, Dr. Carrese has laid out several specific directives for physicians to discuss with any individuals who have had a pain pump or are possibly going to get a pain pump following arthroscopic shoulder surgery.

First, physicians should discuss the potential risk and adverse events that are commonly associated with the use of a pain pump, stemming from when anesthetic medication is applied directly into the joint space.

Second, for all patients that develop chondrolysis, physicians must give patients all known information about this condition including the likelihood that their condition is the result of the pain pump and the steps they may take for proper diagnostic and treatment care. Finally, for all patients that develop chondrolysis, physicians should advise the patients of their right to pursue legal action relating to their condition.

If you think that you may be suffering from chondrolysis after having a postoperative pain pump inserted directly into your shoulder following your arthroscopic shoulder surgery, then please contact Pogust Braslow & Millrood for a free consultation.