A Randomized Clinical Trial Comparing Open and Arthroscopic Stabilization for Recurrent Traumatic Anterior Shoulder Instability: Two-Year Follow-up with Disease-Specific Quality-of-Life Outcomes

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The literature comparing open and arthroscopic repair for glenohumeral instability is conflicting. We performed a prospective, expertise-based, randomized clinical trial to compare open shoulder stabilization with arthroscopic shoulder stabilization by measuring quality-of-life outcomes and recurrence rates at two years among patients treated for traumatic anterior shoulder instability.


Computer-generated, variable-block-size, concealed randomization allocated 196 patients to either the open-repair group (n = 98) or the arthroscopic-repair group (n = 98). An expertise-based randomization design was employed to avoid a differential bias in terms of physician experience. Outcomes were measured at baseline, at three and six months postoperatively, and at one and two years postoperatively with use of the Western Ontario Shoulder Instability Index (WOSI) and the American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons (ASES) functional outcome scale. Recurrent instability was also analyzed.


There were no significant differences in outcome scores at baseline. At two years, seventy-nine patients in the open group and eighty-three patients in the arthroscopic group were available for follow-up. There was no significant difference in mean WOSI scores between the groups; the mean WOSI score (and standard deviation) for the open group was 85.2 ± 20.4 (95% confidence interval [CI] = 80.5 to 89.8), and for the arthroscopic group, 81.9 ± 19.8 (95% CI = 77.4 to 86.4); p = 0.31. There was also no significant difference in mean ASES scores: 91.4 ± 12.7 (95% CI = 88.5 to 94.4) for the open group and 88.2 ± 15.9 (95% CI = 84.6 to 91.8) for the arthroscopic group; p = 0.17. Recurrence rates at two years were significantly different: 11% in the open group and 23% in the arthroscopic group (p = 0.05). Recurrent instability was more likely in patients with a preoperative Hill-Sachs lesion and in male patients who were twenty-five years old and younger. There was no significant difference in shoulder motion between the groups at two years.


There was no difference between open and arthroscopic repair in terms of patient quality of life. Open repair resulted in a significantly lower risk of recurrence. Secondary outcome data from this trial suggest that open surgical repair may be recommended to reduce the risk of recurrent instability in younger male patients with a Hill-Sachs lesion.

Level of Evidence:

Therapeutic Level I. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

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