Evidence in managing traumatic anterior shoulder instability

Traumatic anterior shoulder instability (TASI) is to blame for 95% of glenohumeral dislocations and is associated with soft tissue and bony pathoanatomies. Non-operative treatments include slings, bracing and physiotherapy. Operative treatment is often used, including bony and soft-tissue reconstructions performed through open or arthroscopic approaches. There is management variation in patient pathways for TASI including when to refer and when to operate. A scoping review of systematic reviews, randomised controlled trials, comparing operative with non-operative treatments and different operative treatments were the methods followed. They conducted an online search for bibliographic databases and reference lists of relevant articles from 2002 to 2012. Systematic reviews were appraised using AMSTAR (assessment of multiple systematic reviews) criteria. Controlled trials were appraised using the CONSORT (consolidation of standards of reporting trials) tool.

Their analysis of the reviews didn’t provide strong evidence for a best treatment option for TASI. No studies directly compare open, arthroscopic and structured rehabilitation programmes. Evaluation of arthroscopic studies and comparison to open procedures was difficult, as many of the arthroscopic techniques included are no longer used. Recurrence rate was generally considered the best measure of operative success, but was poorly documented throughout all studies. There was conflicting evidence on the best timing of intervention and no consensus on any scoring system or outcome measure.


The authors concluded that there is no agreement about which validated outcome tool should be used for assessing shoulder instability in patients. There is limited evidence regarding the comparative effectiveness of surgical and non-surgical treatment of TASI, including a lack of evidence regarding the optimal timing of treatments like this. They add that there is a need for a well-structured randomised control trial to examine the efficacy of surgical and non-surgical interventions for this common form of shoulder instability.