Pain Pumps & Arthroscopic Shoulder Surgery Risks
For years, patients undergoing arthroscopic shoulder surgery have routinely received pain pumps to reduce pain following during the recovery period. Now it is universally accepted in the medical community that shoulder pain pumps delivering anesthetics is dangerous and forbidden as the drugs kill the cartilage cells. This painful condition is known as Postarthroscopic Glenohumeral Chondrolysis ("PAGCL", or simply, chondrolysis). Chondrolysis is a devastating and permanent injury that leads to a lifetime of surgeries and pain.
Pain pumps deliver controlled amounts of local anesthetics to manage pain after a surgical procedure. They had become popular because of their ability to reduce recovery time without the unpleasant side effects of many narcotic pain relievers. Regrettably, while the manufacturers sponsored many tests to determine whether the pumps worked, they sponsored no tests to determine whether the pumps were safe.
Multiple studies published over the past four years have identified intra-articular pain pumps as the most probable cause of chondrolysis in patients who received pain pumps following routine shoulder surgery. Chondrolysis occurs when the cartilage located within the joint begins to deteriorate after exposure to lethal doses of the anesthetic drugs.
Indeed, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a safety alert to physicians concerning the dangers of using pain pumps in orthopedic procedures. The FDA discussed in its report the findings that 97 percent of patients in a study who developed chondrolysis did so following the use of pain pumps. The FDA stated: "Health care professionals are encouraged to not use these devices for continuous intra-articular infusion of local anesthetics after orthopedic surgery." The FDA confirmed its warnings to physicians and patients in a FDA Patient News Safety video.
More than 500 lawsuits are pending against the companies that manufacture, market or distribute the pain pumps, including Stryker, DJO Inc., I-Flow Inc., BREG Inc. and others. These suits have proven that the pain pump manufacturers illegally promoted their pumps for orthopedic use when the FDA had specifically rejected the manufacturer’s requests to promote the pumps for orthopedic and joint use. This finding was confirmed by the FDA’s public statement: "Neither local anesthetics nor infusion devices are approved for an indication of continuous intra-articular infusion."
Moreover, these suits have proven that physicians had reported incidences of chondrolysis to the manufacturers who refused to warn physicians, as the law required them to do. Tragically, the manufacturers did nothing to warn unsuspecting physicians and patients of the risk of shoulder chondrolysis.
Symptoms associated with chondrolysis typically manifest 3-12 months after shoulder surgery and can include:
- Inability to raise one’s arm or lift any significant weight
- Shoulder pain whether in motion or at rest or at sleep
- Decreased range of motion
Patients who have been told by their doctors that they have either (1) suffered cartilage loss following arthroscopic surgery where a pain pump was used; or (2) will require a shoulder replacement, may be suffering from chondrolysis. These patients may be entitled to legal compensation and should contact an attorney immediately.