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Shoulder injury

Alternatives to open surgery

Over ten million people in the UK are living with musculoskeletal conditions, such as arthritis and the effects of fractures and other injuries. They are the reason for at least 20% of all visits to the GP.

These conditions become more common in an ageing population, due to wear and tear on the joints, obesity, thinning of the bones, falls and fractures. Older people are more likely to have additional health conditions, more likely to suffer complications of surgery and less likely to heal quickly or have successful treatment, compared with younger people. Safer, acceptable, more cost effective alternatives to open surgery are urgently needed.

To help meet this need, the NIHR has funded major research studies into treatment options for musculoskeletal injuries. Evidence is now increasing on promising alternatives to open surgery, such as less invasive surgery, using slings for arm fractures or special types of plaster cast for ankle fractures, and physiotherapy for the effects of musculoskeletal disorders.

Doctors discussing xray

Evidence at a glance

The findings boiled down, alongside practical questions to consider.

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Conducting keyhole surgery

Which treatments work best?

Discover which treatments are effective for which conditions.

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Patient with arm in cast

What does it mean for patients?

How patients and healthcare professionals decide on treatment.

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Conducting surgery

Challenges and future research

What are the difficulties of conducting research in this area what does the future hold?

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Collection of NIHR Signals

About the research

Find out more about the studies in this area and how their findings fit with current guidance. 

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10 million

people affected by musculoskeletal conditions in the UK.

£5.34 bn

cost to health services from musculoskeletal conditions per year in the UK.

Over 20%

of GP visits concern a musculoskeletal condition.

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