Postarthroscopic glenohumeral chondrolysis is a condition that primarily affects the glenohumeral joint, which is the joint connecting the socket of the shoulder to the ball of the upper arm bone. This joint working properly is very important to the movement of the arm. When this joint is affected by the condition, the cartilage within the joint begins to deteriorate, causing a number of symptoms and complications. The arm is no longer able to move properly and, as the amount of cartilage in the joint deteriorates, the bone and the socket begin to rub together destroying the bone.
Postarthroscopic glenohumeral chondrolysis is a devastating complication for which there is no effective treatment and no known cure. There are several symptoms that may appear to indicate the onset of the condition. The most common symptom of postarthroscopic glenohumeral chondrolysis is stiffness in the shoulder. This is due to the lessening of cartilage in the shoulder joint which allows the shoulder and arm to move together smoothly. As the amount of cartilage that is missing in the shoulder joint increases, the ease of movement in the shoulder decreases. In some cases, the individual’s arm becomes immovable due to the stiffness and pain of moving the arm at the shoulder joint. If the arm becomes immovable, the only treatment available to fix the complication is shoulder replacement surgery. Because of the pain and devastation caused by the condition, postarthroscopic glenohumeral chondrolysis is considered a serious and life-threatening condition.
Other symptoms of postarthroscopic glenohumeral chondrolysis include clicking, popping, or grinding when the shoulder is in motion. These sounds and sensations are the result of the arm bone and the socket of the shoulder rubbing together because of the absence of cartilage between them. The sensation of bone rubbing on bone can be quite painful and the pain may occur both when the shoulder is in motion and when the arm is at rest. The pain can range from moderate to severe depending on how much cartilage is missing from the shoulder joint. This reduction of cartilage in the shoulder joint is easily seen on x-ray images as the space in the joint becomes more narrow and the socket of the shoulder and the bone of the arm appear closer together until they are touching, which indicates an almost complete loss of cartilage between the two.
The symptoms of postarthroscopic glenohumeral chondrolysis typically occur months after the individual has undergone a surgical procedure known as shoulder arthroscopy. During shoulder arthroscopy, the joint of the shoulder is examined, and possibly operated on, using a miniature camera, lighting equipment, and surgical tools. These items are inserted into a small incision made in the skin of the shoulder and the procedure is much less invasive than other surgical techniques. The problem tends to occur when a disposable pain pump is used after the procedure to pump pain medication directly into the socket of the shoulder. The use of a pain pump after the procedure has been linked to the development of postarthroscopic glenohumeral chondrolysis in a number of individuals. Experts believe that the high doses of medication pumped into the shoulder socket by the pain pump contribute to the dissolution of the cartilage in the socket.