I dislocated my shoulder. Should I have surgery?

Traditionally, doctors have treated dislocated shoulders with slings and physical rehabilitation. Unfortunately, this approach isn't very effective in preventing repeat dislocations. This is especially true if you're young. Studies show that athletes under age 25 re-injure their shoulders up to 94 percent of the time.

Surgery to stabilize the shoulder is a more aggressive approach. A new procedure uses an arthroscope-- a camera-like device that lets doctors see inside the joint. With this instrument, doctors don't have to make big incisions in the skin. This makes surgery less invasive. Doctors implant special tacks to hold the shoulder in place.

How effective is this procedure? It was recently tested on cadets at West Point. In this group of young, highly active patients, surgery resulted in stable shoulders 88 percent of the time. These patients had no complications from surgery. They were able to return to all their activities. Twelve percent of the patients had another injury within a year and a half of surgery. Still, this re-injury rate was felt to be small compared to that of patients who didn't have surgery.

Talk to your doctor about your options for surgery, given your age and history.