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Shoulder & elbow surgery

Struggling with a shoulder or elbow problem? We can help

At Albyn Hospital, patients visit our consultant orthopeadics surgeon with a variety of shoulder and elbow-related issues. Our shoulder and elbow pain clinic helps people take control of their pain and discomfort, whether they've suffered an injury or are living with a condition such as arthritis. 

Shoulder pain

As the most flexible joint in your body, the shoulder can be prone to all kinds of injuries. According to an Arthritis Researck UK study in 2017, the shoulder is the third most common musculoskeletal (MSK) reason to seek medical help. Shoulder pain can affect a person’s day-to-day activities quite significantly. 

Our most common shoulder treatments include arthroscopic subacromial decompression, which treats shoulder impingement, as well as arthroscopic stabilisation of the shoulder (bankart repair), which can prevent recurring anterior shoulder dislocations due to instability.

A total shoulder replacement or reverse shoulder replacement may be offered, if needed – and our consultant can also help treat conditions involving other areas of the body affected by pain or reduced mobility.

Regarding shoulder conditions specifically, most can be treated with arthroscopy (keyhole techniques), with the advantage being minimal soft tissue damage, minimal access, a faster recovery time and a reduced risk of infection. Most can be performed as a day case procedure for optimum convenience for the patient.

Elbow pain

Many people come to our clinic at Albyn Hospital for help with their elbow.

Your elbow joint is formed of three bones: your ulnar and radius (these are two adjacent bones in your forearm) and the humerus (a bone in your upper arm). The ends of these bones are covered in a protective layer called your cartilage. The elbow joint allows you to straighten and rotate your forearm. It is crucial for many of the daily actions and activities we take for granted. 

Damage to structures inside your joint such as your cartilage, bones, and tendons (tissue that connects your muscle to bone) can lead to pain, swelling and affect the movement of your elbow or arm. Understandably, this discomfort brings with it a significant impact on quality of life. 

Common conditions include tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow, ulnar nerve entrapment, loose bodies in the elbow, a stiff elbow or elbow arthritis. 

With around three out of 10 people experiencing shoulder-related symptoms at some point in their lives, our clinic is a busy one – and there are a wide range of treatment modalities available.

People who visit our consultant orthopeadics surgeon with shoulder pain may have one of many conditions. Shoulder pain can be caused by a number of factors; from wear and tear to chronic overuse and acute injuries, with conditions affecting the muscle, tendons or other soft tissues and bone leading to a host of symptoms.

Lots of people see us with shoulder impingement, which is shoulder pain caused by the rotator cuff tendons rubbing on nearby bone or tissues.

Some patients may have inflammation of a bursa – a closed, fluid-filled sac that acts as a cushion. This condition is called bursitis.

You may also have heard of tendonitis, which is inflammation of your rotator cuff and or biceps tendon. Frozen shoulder is another common condition, whereby the patient experiences a reduction in movement due to tightening of the joint capsule.

Rotator cuff injuries are also common, as the rotator cuff can become injured due to chronic overuse.

Shoulder dislocation is where theupper arm bone pops out of the cup shaped socket that is part of the shoulder blade – usually following an injury. Shoulder joint instability, meanwhile, is where the ligaments supporting the shoulderhave become torn, stretched or detached, which allows the shoulder to become dislocated.

Arthritis is another condition we see a lot of in clinic, and this can lead to restricted movement in the shoulder, and pain. Shoulder arthritis is quite a painful and debilitating condition that limits shoulder movements. For those suffering from the condition, treatment can ensure a full range of motion and an improved quality of life.

Frozen shoulder is another common condition seen within our shoulder injury clinic. Causing severe pain and limitation of motion in the shoulder, if left untreated, it can go on for 18 months. In the initial stages, steroid injections and physiotherapy may help.

Osteoarthritis: This form of arthritis occurs when the cartilage cushioning your joint wears out. As a result, your bones begin to rub together which, in turn, can lead to pain, stiffness and muscle weakness. You might experience a locking sensation that could make it difficult to straighten your elbow. Although the natural and wear tear of your joints from ageing is the most common cause of osteoarthritis, the risk is increased if you have a family history of the condition, if you are obese, or if you have had a previous injury to your elbow.

Golfer’s elbow:
The medical term for golfer's elbow is medial epicondylitis. It causes pain in the inside of your elbow. It is often the result of the tendon inside your elbow becoming inflamed and strained due to activities or sports that involve repetitive hand or wrist movements.

Tennis elbow:
In contrast to golfer’s elbow, tennis elbow (also known as lateral epicondylitis) can cause pain on the outside of your elbow. It is often triggered by repetitive or strenuous movements in your forearm which can cause inflammation in the tendon on the outside of your elbow.

Ulnar nerve compression: Your ulnar nerve is one of the primary nerves in your arm and passes from your neck to your hand. Unfortunately, your elbow is a common part of your body where your ulnar nerve can become compressed. This is known as cubital tunnel syndrome. It can lead to elbow pain, numbness in your fingers, and a weakened grip.

This refers to a break or crack in one or more of the bones inside your elbow, which could be caused by an injury or a fall. If you develop a fracture in your olecranon (the tip of your elbow), this can cause sudden pain, numbness in your fingers, and an inability to move your arm. A fracture in your radial head (the top of your radius) could cause pain, difficulty straightening your arm and an inability to rotate your forearm. If your fractured bones have shifted out of their normal position, you could require elbow fracture surgery to reposition these bones.

Our consultant orthopeadic surgeon will take a full medical history, as well as asking you about your symptoms, including any pain or restricted movement in the shoulder area or elbows.

Your consultant may suggest some imaging or other diagnostic tests – and there are certain things you may be able to do to help ease the pain yourself. This can include gentle exercises, improving your posture and taking pain medication.

Although most diagnoses can be made clinically, in a lot of patients an X-ray of the affected area is required, and further imaging may be needed – including MRI scans, ultrasounds and CT scans.

Steroid injections can be used as an initial line of treatment to reduce any inflammation. This may help the patient move more comfortably – but if the symptoms do not improve, they may need to return for further investigations or treatments.

In some cases, an operation may be required, and this is generally performed as a 'keyhole' procedure - an arthroscopy. During this investigation, if the shoulder is affected, the parts of the shoulder joint can be examined to see what the cause of the problem is, with any damaged tissues being repaired or removed.

A surgical option used for shoulder pain caused by impingement is subacromial decompression. This means removing bone spurs and soft tissue through a thin telescope introduced through the keyhole cut.

Other types of surgery to repair tears in the rotator cuff may also be offered if that is the issue you are experiencing – and you will have chance to discuss different treatment options with your consultant.

At The Albyn Hospital, every treatment plan is bespoke, and the surgery you have will depend on your personal circumstances. 

Some of the procedures we most commonly perform to treat elbow pain are;

Elbow arthroscopy

An elbow arthroscopy is a keyhole operation where your Orthopaedic Surgeon will create up to four incisions in the area around your elbow joint. Your Orthopaedic Surgeon will then pass an arthroscope (a thin tube with a camera) into one of your incisions to allow the inside of your joint to be seen on a video monitor. Specialised surgical instruments are then passed into the other incisions to perform your treatment. This could include removing bone spurs or loose bodies (cartilage or bone fragments that could be floating inside your joint) or releasing a thickened joint capsule (lining) to help your joint move more freely. An arthroscopy can also be performed to release an inflamed tendon (tendonitis) which could be caused by tennis or golfer’s elbow.

Tennis elbow surgery

Your Orthopaedic Surgeon can perform your tennis elbow surgery through an arthroscopy (keyhole elbow surgery) or an open operation where a single is incision is used instead. After locating the affected tendon, your Surgeon will create a small incision to release and clear the painful section of your tendon.

Total elbow replacement surgery

This operation involves making an incision in the back of your elbow to remove and replace the damaged sections of your humerus (upper arm bone) and ulna (a bone in your forearm) with artificial parts. These artificial parts, also known as a prosthesis, will form your new elbow joint. It will consist of a hinge with two stems that will fit into the hollow of both your ulna (lower arm bone) and humerus (upper arm bone). Your prosthesis could be made from metal, plastic or ceramic, or a mixture of these materials. It will be secured in place using bone cement (a synthetic resin).

After your operation has been performed, your incision(s) will be closed with stitches and a dressing will be placed over this area. Your Surgeon could place your arm into splint to protect your operated area.

There are lots of reasons to choose Albyn Hospital for shoulder or elbow surgery.

The hospital offers fast, private healthcare with a diagnosis and treatment when you need it. You can select a consultant of your choice, and you can spread the cost of your treatment – on an interest-free basis, if needed.

Diagnostics like X-rays can be performed on the same day as your consultation, with most other scans available within a short time frame too. It’s also only a matter of weeks between your first consultation and any surgery needed; if a consultation is urgent, you will usually be seen within a week.

Below is an at-a-glance look at some of the reasons you might choose Albyn Hospital for shoulder-related injuries and treatment:

  • Reduced waiting times – Patients who visit Albyn Hospital can, of course, benefit from shorter waiting times than they would if, say, they were to pursue treatment on the NHS.
  • Flexible appointments at a time to suit you – You can choose an appointment time to suit you and your schedule – and in some cases, remote consultations will be offered.
  • Consultant-led appointments – Your appointment will always be consultant-led, and you’ll see the same person each time you visit.
  • Patient satisfaction and personalised care – In an independent survey* in 2020, 98.9% of our patients said they would recommend the hospital and its treatments.
  • A multidisciplinary approach – Our consultants within the shoulder clinic will work closely with other teams, including physiotherapy, to ensure the best possible outcome for you.

Patients travel from in and around Aberdeen itself for shoulder or elbow treatment. Some patients come from further afield, including the Highlands and even Cumbria.

Want to make a consultation with our consultant orthopeadics surgeon at Albyn Hospital? You can get in touch with our team by calling 01224 595993. You can also use our handy online booking system to make your appointment.

Specialists offering Shoulder & elbow surgery

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Professor Alan Johnstone

Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon


Albyn Hospital

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Mr L. A. Kash Khan

Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon

BSc(Hons), MBChB, MSc, FRCSEd (Tr&Orth)

Albyn Hospital

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Mr Scott Barker

Consultant Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgeon

MB ChB, FRCSEd(Tr & Orth)

Albyn Hospital

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Mr Kapil Kumar

Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon

MBBS, MS(Orth), MCh(Orth), FRCS(Tr&Orth)

Albyn Hospital

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Mr David Andrew Cairns

Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon

BSc, MB ChB, FRCS Ed (Tr & Orth)

Albyn Hospital

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Mr James Bidwell

Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon


Albyn Hospital

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