Original Research

Shoulder & Elbow Arthroplasty

Medical Complications and Outcomes After Total Shoulder Arthroplasty: A Nationwide Analysis

Author Affiliation | Disclosures

Authors’ Disclosure Statement: Dr. Jobin reports that he has received consultant payments from Acumed, Depuy Synthes, Wright-Tornier, and Zimmer Biomet, which is not directly related to the subject of this work; receives grant support from American Shoulder & Elbow Surgeons and grant funding from Orthopedic Scientific Research Foundation not related to the subject of this work; and he is on the editorial board of the Journal of American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (JAAOS). Dr. Levine reports that he is an unpaid consultant for Zimmer Biomet, receives research grant financial support from Smith and Nephew not directly related to the subject of this work, and is on the editorial/governing board of the Journal of American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (JAAOS). Dr. Ahmad reports that he receives intellectual property royalties, is a paid consultant to, and receives research support from Arthrex; receives stock or stock options from At Peak; receives publishing royalties and financial or material support from Lead Player; receives research support from Major League Baseball; receives research support from Stryker; and is on the editorial or governing board for Orthopedics Today. The other authors report no actual or potential conflict of interest in relation to this article.

Dr. Anakwenze is an Orthopedic Surgeon, Olympus Orthopedic Medical Group, San Diego, California. Dr. O’Donnell is a Resident, Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Hospital for Special Surgery, New York, New York. Dr. Jobin, Dr. Levine, and Dr. Ahmad are Orthopedic Surgeons, Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Columbia University, New York, New York.

Address correspondence to: Oke A Anakwenze, MD, Olympus Orthopedic Medical Group, 3750 Convoy Street, Suite 201, San Diego, CA 92111 (email,

Am J Orthop. 2018;47(10). Copyright Frontline Medical Communications Inc. 2018. All rights reserved.


There is a paucity of evidence describing the types and rates of postoperative complications following total shoulder arthroplasty (TSA). We sought to analyze the complications following TSA and determine their effects on described outcome measures.

Using discharge data from the weighted Nationwide Inpatient Sample from 2006 to 2010, patients who underwent primary TSA were identified. The prevalence of specific complications was identified using the International Classification of Diseases, 9th Revision, Clinical Modification (ICD-9-CM) codes. The data from this database represent events occurring during admission, prior to discharge. The associations between patient characteristics, complications, and outcomes of TSA were evaluated. The specific outcomes analyzed in this study were mortality and length of stay (LOS).

A total of 125,766 patients were identified. The rate of complication after TSA was 6.7% (8457 patients). The most frequent complications were respiratory, renal, and cardiac, occurring in 2.9%, 0.8%, and 0.8% of cases, respectively. Increasing age and total number of preoperative comorbidities significantly increased the likelihood of having a complication. The prevalence of postoperative shock and central nervous system, cardiac, vascular, and respiratory complications was significantly higher in patients who suffered postoperative mortality (88 patients; 0.07% mortality rate) than in those who survived surgery (P < 0.0001). In terms of LOS, shock and infectious and vascular complications most significantly increased the length of hospitalization.

Postoperative complications following TSA are not uncommon and occur in >6% of patients. Older patients and certain comorbidities are associated with complications after surgery. These complications are associated with postoperative mortality and increased LOS.

Take Home Points

  • Medical complications are common (6.7%) after total shoulder arthroplasty.
  • Age and preoperative medical comorbidities increased the risk of a postoperative complication.
  • The most frequent medical complications are respiratory, renal, and cardiac.
  • Length of stay was effected most by shock, infections, and vascular complications.
  • Mortality was associated with major complications such as, shock, central nervous system, cardiac, vascular, and respiratory complications.

Total shoulder arthroplasty (TSA) provides a predictably high level of satisfaction with survival as high as 92% at 15 years.1 As implant instrumentation and surgical technique and understanding have improved, the frequency of TSAs being performed has also increased.2 Although there are enough data on long-term surgical complications following TSA,1,3-6 there is a paucity of evidence delineating the incidence and types of postoperative complications during hospitalization. Several current issues motivate the improved understanding of TSA, including the increasing number of TSAs being performed, the desire to improve quality of care, and the desire to create financially efficient healthcare.

The purpose of this study is to detail the postoperative complications that occur following TSA using a large national database. Specifically, our goals are to determine the incidence and types of complications after shoulder arthroplasty, determine the patient factors that are associated with these complications, and evaluate the effects of these complications on postoperative in-hospital mortality and length of stay (LOS). Our hypothesis is that there would be a correlation between specific patient factors and complications and that these complications would adversely correlate to patient postoperative outcomes.



We conducted a retrospective analysis of TSAs captured by the Nationwide Inpatient Sample (NIS) database between 2006 and 2010. The NIS is the largest all-payer inpatient database that is currently available to the public in the United States.7

The NIS is a part of the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and the US Department of Health and Human Services. The NIS database is designed to approximate a 20% sample of US hospitals and the patients they serve, including community, academic, general, and specialty-specific hospitals such as orthopedic hospitals.7 The 2010 update of the NIS database contains discharge data from 1051 hospitals across 45 states, with a representative sample of >39 million inpatient hospital stays.7 The NIS database and its data sources have been independently validated and assessed for quality each year since 1988.8 Furthermore, comparative analysis of multiple database elements and distributions has been validated against standard norms, including the National Hospital Discharge Survey.9 The NIS database has been used in numerous published studies.2,10,11

Patient Selection

The yearly NIS databases from 2006 to 2010 were compiled. Patients aged ≥40 years who underwent a TSA were identified using the International Classification of Diseases, 9th Revision (ICD-9), procedural code 81.80. Exclusion criteria were patients with a primary or a secondary diagnosis of humeral or scapular fracture, chronic osteomyelitis, rheumatologic diseases, or evidence of concurrent malignancy (Figure 1).

Native to NIS are patient demographics, including age, sex, and race. Patient comorbidities as described by Elixhauser and colleagues12 are also included in the database.


The primary outcome of this study was a description of the type and frequency of postoperative complications of TSA. To conduct this analysis, we queried the TSA cohort for specific ICD-9 codes representing acute cardiac, central nervous system, infectious, gastrointestinal, genitourinary, postoperative shock, renal, respiratory, surgical, vascular, and wound complications. The ICD-9 codes used to identify complications were modeled according to previous literature on various surgical applications and were further parsed to reflect only acute postoperative diagnoses13-15 (see the Appendix for the comprehensive list of ICD-9 codes).

Two additional outcomes were analyzed, including postoperative mortality and LOS. Postoperative mortality was defined as death occurring prior to discharge. We calculated the average LOS among the complication and the noncomplication cohort.

Statistical Analysis

Patient demographics and target outcomes of the study were analyzed by frequency distribution. Where applicable, the chi-square and the Student’s t tests were used to confirm the statistical difference for dichotomous and continuous variables, respectively. Multivariate regressions were performed after controlling for possible clustering of the data using a generalized estimating equation following a previous analytical methodology.16-20 The results are reported with odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals where applicable, all statistical tests with P ≤ 0.05 were considered to be significant, and all statistical tests were two-sided. We conducted all analyses using SAS, version 9.2 (SAS Institute).


From 2006 to 2010, a weighted sample of 141,973 patients was found to undergo a TSA. After applying our inclusion and exclusion criteria, our study cohort consisted of 125,766 patients (Figure 1).

Overall TSA Cohort Demographics

The average age of the TSA cohort was 69.4 years (standard deviation [SD], 21.20), and 54.1% were females. The cohort had significant comorbidities, with 83.3% of them having at least 1 comorbidity at the time of surgery. Specifically, 31.3% of the patients had 1 comorbidity, 26.5% had 2 comorbidities, and 25.4% had ≥3 comorbidities. Hypertension was the most common comorbidity present in 66.2% of patients, and diabetes was the second most common comorbidity with a prevalence of 16.8%.

Complication Cohort Demographics

An overall postoperative complication rate of 6.7% (weighted sample of 8457 patients) was noted in the overall TSA cohort. The TSA cohort was dichotomized into patients who suffered at least 1 complication (weighted, n = 8457) and patients undergoing routine TSAs (weighted, n = 117,308). The average age was significantly higher in the complication vs routine cohort (71.38 vs 69.27 years, P < 0.0001). Similarly, there were significantly more comorbidities (2.51 vs 1.71, P < 0.0001) in the complication cohort.


We noted a complication rate of 6.7% (weighted sample of 8457 patients). A single complication was noted in 5% of these patients, whereas 1.3% and 0.4% of the patients had 2 and ≥3 complications, respectively. Respiratory abnormalities (2.9%), acute renal failure (0.8%), and cardiac complications (0.8%) were the most prevalent complications after TSA. The list of complications is detailed in Figure 2. Logistic regression analysis of patient characteristics predicting complications showed that advanced age (odds ratio [OR], 2.1 in those aged ≥85 years) and increasing number of comorbidities (≥3; OR, 3.5) were most significant in predicting complications (all P < 0.0001) (Figure 3). Despite the ubiquity of hypertension in this patient population, it was not a significant predictor of complication (OR, 0.9); in contrast, pulmonary disorders (OR, 5.1) and fluid and electrolyte disorders (4.0) were most strongly associated with the development of a postoperative complication after surgery (Figure 4).

Effect of Complications on LOS

The average length of hospitalization was 2.3 days (95% confidence interval, 2.22-2.25) among the entire cohort. The average LOS was longer in the complication cohort (3.9 days) than in patients who did not have a complication (2.1 days, P < 0.0001). Of the specific complications noted, hemodynamic shock (11.8 days); infectious, most commonly pneumonia (7.6 days); and vascular complications (6.9 days) were associated with the longest hospitalizations. This result is summarized in Figure 5.


An overall postoperative (in-house) mortality rate of 0.07% was noted (weighted, n = 88). Comparison between the patient cohort that died vs those who survived TSA resulted in significant differences in the rates of complications. Complications that were most significantly different between the cohorts included cardiac (60.47% vs 0.75%, P < 0.0001), postoperative shock (26.61% vs 0.04%, P < 0.0001), and respiratory complications (43.1% vs 2.8%, P < 0.0001). It is important to note that the overall rate of postoperative shock was exceedingly low in the TSA cohort, but it was highly prevalent in the mortality cohort, occurring in 26.61% of patients. A summary of the mortality statistics is presented in Figure 6.


TSA continues to be associated with high levels of satisfaction;1 as a result, its incidence is increasing.2 As our understanding and efficiency improves nationally, it is imperative that we determine the short-term and longer-term outcomes and complications. In addition, the factors that may affect prognosis must be elucidated to provide a more individualized and effective standard of care. To date, most of the outcome studies of TSA have evaluated long-term outcomes and specific implant-related complications.1,5,6,21,22 Our intent was to evaluate the complications that occur in the postoperative period and their effect on unique “patient care” outcomes. With knowledge of these complications and the predisposing factors, we can better assess patients, risk-stratify, and provide appropriate guidelines.

We noted that complications occurring after TSA are not uncommon, with >6% of patients suffering a postoperative complication. In this study, the number of complications noted was associated with worse patient outcomes. In addition, we noted that patients undergoing a TSA have a significant burden of comorbidities; however, hematologic and fluid disorders (eg, iron deficiency anemia, pulmonary circulatory disorders, and fluid imbalances) were most important in predicting postoperative complications.

Increased LOS in the hospital after TSA was associated with the occurrence of complications. Of all noted complications, shock and infectious and vascular complications led to the longest hospitalizations. Hospital-acquired pneumonia was the most common infectious etiology, while pulmonary embolism and deep vein thrombosis were the most consistent vascular complications. Although seldom studied in the TSA population, a similar finding has been noted in patients after THA. O’Malley and colleagues,23 using the American College of Surgeon’s National Surgical Quality Improvement Program database, identified independent factors that were associated with complications and average prolonged LOS. They noted that the occurrence of major complications was associated with a prolonged LOS. Some, but not all the major complications, included organ space infection, cardiac events, pneumonia, and venous thromboembolic events.23 Therefore, attempts to limit the amount of time spent in hospitals and control the associated costs must focus on managing the incidence of complications.

Postoperative mortality after TSA was uncommon, occurring in 0.07% of the patients in this study. The low incidence of mortality noted in this study is probably related to the fact that our data represent mortality, whereas in the hospital and, unlike most mortality studies, it does not account for patient demise that may occur in the months after surgery. Other reports have noted that mortality occurs in <1.5% of these patients.24-28 Singh and colleagues25 observed in their evaluation of perioperative mortality after TSA a mortality rate of 0.8% with 90 days after 4380 shoulder replacements performed at their institution. Using multivariate analysis, they were able to identify associations between mortality and increasing American Society of Anesthesiology (ASA) class and Charlson Comorbidity Index. These results in relation to ours would indicate that the majority of patients who die after shoulder arthroplasty do so after initial discharge. Although we could not determine a causal relationship between mortality and patient comorbidities, we noted that certain complications strongly correlated with mortality. In patients who died, there was a relatively high incidence of cardiac (60.5%) and respiratory (43.1%) complications. Similarly, although postoperative shock was almost nonexistent in the patients who survived surgery (0.04%), it was much more common in the patients who suffered mortality (26.6%).

This study is not without limitations. Data were extracted from a national database, therefore precluding the inclusion of specific details of surgery and functional assessment. Inherent to ICD-9 coding, we were unable to assess the exact detail and severity of complications. For instance, we cannot be certain what criteria were used to define “acute renal failure” for each patient. This study is retrospective in nature and therefore adequate randomization and standardization of patients is not possible. Similarly, the nature of the database may not allow for exacting our inclusion and exclusion criteria. However, the large sample size of the patient population lessens the chance of potential biases and type 2 errors. Prior to October 2010, reverse shoulder arthroplasty was coded under the ICD-9 procedural code 81.80 as TSA. Therefore, there is some overlap between TSA and reverse shoulder arthroplasty in our data. Reverse shoulder arthroplasty is now coded under ICD-9 procedural code 81.88. It is possible that results may differ if reverse shoulder arthroplasty were excluded from our patient cohort. This can be an area of future research.


Although much is known about the long-term hardware and functional complications after TSA, in this study, we have attempted to broaden the understanding of perioperative complications and the associated sequelae. Complications are common after TSA surgery and are related to adverse outcomes. In the setting of healthcare changes, the surgeon and the patient must understand the cause, types, incidence, and outcomes of medical and surgical complications after surgery. This allows for more accurate “standard of care” metrics. Further large-volume multicenter studies are needed to gain further insight into the short- and long-term outcomes of TSA.

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