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Defective Pain Pump Shoulder Injury

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Patients who have been given shoulder pain pumps after arthroscopic surgery are now questioning whether those pumps should have been used at all. The pumps have been linked to a debilitating condition called postarthroscopic glenohumeral chondrolysis (PAGCL), which can be far worse than the patient's initial condition--that surgery was supposed to treat—and leave the patient with destroyed cartilage.


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Shoulder Pain Pumps and PAGCL

Shoulder surgery can be painful and pain management is usually required post-surgery. Oral painkillers are often prescribed but to better manage post-surgical pain of arthroscopic shoulder surgery, a disposable small and flexible plastic tube, called an intra-articular pain pump catheter, is surgically implanted in the shoulder joint and left for a few days after surgery to deliver pain medication to that area.

The pump delivers relief but evidence has revealed that it cause severe and irreparable damage. The shoulder pain pump has been associated with Postarthroscopic glenohumeral chondrolysis or PAGCL, an extremely painful condition that can cause life-long disability. PAGCL is one of the most common complications following shoulder surgeries but physicians were unable to determine a cause until a study was published in 2006.

shoulder pain pumpThe study, conducted by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, reported that the use of shoulder pain pumps may be associated with PAGCL. Medical charts of 152 patients who had undergone arthroscopic shoulder surgeries were studied. Twelve of the patients developed PAGCL, and all of them had received pain pumps during their surgeries. The use of the intra-articular pain pump was the only factor that the PAGCL patients had in common.

PAGCL is a progressive loss of cartilage of the glenohumeral joint--the joint that joins the arm and shoulder. The head of the arm bone, which connects to the joint, is covered in articular cartilage, which allows the shoulder joint to move smoothly. If this cartilage is damaged or destroyed the shoulder cannot move easily. It will cause significant pain and reduced range of motion.

Shoulder pain pumps did not cause any adverse side effects when the tip of the catheter insert stopped at soft tissue. But pain pump manufacturers allegedly wanted to expand the use—and thus, their market for the units by introducing pain medication directly to the shoulder joint.

According to sources, the manufacturer sought approval from the FDA for expanded use on numerous occasions, asking the FDA to approve the device for inter-articular placement. This additional use was turned down by the FDA but the manufacturer assured the medical community that shoulder pain pumps were safe to use for placement in the joint space.

PAGCL Symptoms
  • Increased pain in the shoulder at rest and with motion
  • Increased stiffness in the shoulder
  • Clicking, popping or grinding (Crepitus) in the shoulder
  • Decrease in range of motion in the shoulder
  • Loss of strength
  • Joint space narrowing as shown on an x-ray
PAGCL Lawsuits

More than 30 lawsuits have been filed nationwide against the manufacturers of shoulder pain pumps, alleging that the devices caused the development of a painful and debilitating condition where the cartilage in the shoulder is destroyed.

In May, 2008 several attorneys filed a petition to consolidate all federal lawsuits filed on behalf of individuals who developed shoulder chondrolysis after using a pain pump following arthroscopic shoulder surgery. But in August, 2009 the United States Judicial Panel on MDL denied the petition. The panel determined that a MDL was not appropriate in shoulder pain pump litigation, mainly because an indeterminate number of different pain pumps made by different manufacturers are at issue, and consolidation would not serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses or further the interests of judicial economy.

About 28 different corporations and medical providers filed in federal court are named as defendants in the various shoulder pain pump lawsuits, including Stryker Corp., I-Flow Corp., Smith & Nephew, Inc., DePuy, Inc., DJO, Inc., Breg, Inc. and AstraZeneca PLC. All of the defendants opposed the consolidation.

What Can You Do?

PAGCL is usually diagnosed with an x-ray showing the narrowing of the shoulder joint space. Treatment for this condition is further surgery; however, many patients never regain full use of their shoulder joint.

If you'­ve had arthroscopic shoulder surgery and were given a shoulder pain pump, and are experiencing any of the above symptoms you should contact your doctor immediately. And you may want to seek legal help.

Defective Shoulder Pain Pump Legal Help

If you or a loved one has suffered damages due to a defective shoulder pain pump, please click the link below to send your complaint to a lawyer to evaluate your claim at no cost or obligation.

If you reside in Canada, please [click here] for the Canadian complaint form.

Last updated on


Feds Turn Up Noses to $17 Million Shoulder Pain Pump Lawsuit
Feds Turn Up Noses to $17 Million Shoulder Pain Pump Lawsuit
January 27, 2013
A $17 million shoulder pain pump lawsuit filed in January, 2011 under the False Claims Act was unsealed just before Christmas of last year after the federal government decided not to intervene. The lawsuit alleges that various manufacturers of shoulder pain pumps advocated uses for the device that were not approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). READ MORE

Doctors Advise Patients to File Shoulder Pain Pump Lawsuits
Doctors Advise Patients to File Shoulder Pain Pump Lawsuits
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Jordana’s latest orthopedic surgeon advised her to go online, find a shoulder pain pump attorney and file a shoulder pain pump lawsuit. “He told me that the cartilage in my shoulder has worn away and that is why he doesn’t use these pain pumps anymore,” says Jordana. READ MORE

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Basil rues the day he agreed to have a shoulder pain pump inserted after his second shoulder surgery. And he regrets having the next two pain pumps. READ MORE


Posted by

I was only 10 when I got the pain pump installed in an arthroscopic surgery. I have since then had three other surgeries on my left shoulder to attempt to repair the damage caused by the pain pump. It ate away all of my cartilage and I now have severe arthritis in the shoulder due to the bones rubbing together. I am now 20 years old and have to have a full shoulder replacement at such a young age because of this.

Posted by

I had Bankhardt Procedure on my right shoulder in 2000. I was only 29 years old at the time. Pain pump was used in surgery. Experienced sudden pain shoulder pain in 2003. X-ray revealed total and complete loss of cartilage in shoulder, bone-on-bone. I had arthoscopic surgery in 2004 to no avail. Shoulder replacement is the only thing that will help at this point. I only found out that Pain Pump was the culprit! Wish I found out about this sooner. I can no longer golf or play tennis. I have horrible range of motion, even blow drying my hair or reaching behind my back is impossible. Contant pain, interrupts my sleep. Shame this happened to so many young people including myself.

Posted by

I have very bad range of motion. Was told that I have chrondolysis. Had to remove over 20 loose bodies of cartilage in my left shoulder. In constant nagging pain.

Posted by

Limited range of motion, severe constant pain, bone and cartilage degeneration, advanced osteoarthritis only on that side, cracking grinding and popping, unable to do my current job, may have to have total shoulder replacement and I'm only 45 yrs old.

Posted by

In January 08 I had a Subacromial decompression on right shoulder with pain pump, after which my rotator cuff tore completely.
In June 08 I had a rotator cuff repair on right shoulder.
In April 09 I had a Bicep Repair on right shoulder with pain pump.
My right shoulder is very, very painful with limited movement and stiffness, it looks like another surgery will be in the works.

Posted by

I am in pain all of the time and have lost a lucrative job because of it.

Posted by

In May 2009 I had rotator cuff surgery with a pain pump implanted. Recovery seemed to go well in the beginning. About 3 Months after surgery, recovery took a turn for the worse. I now have severe pain in the shoulder both at rest and with motion. I have limited mobility and very little strength in that arm now. My shoulder seems to pop or crack often. Pain is so intense that it is affecting daily activity and sleep. The pain in steadily getting worse.

Posted by

I had right shoulder surgery with pain pump in Dec 2008 with a pretty good recovery. The surgery on my left shoulder in Feb this year has been extremely painful. The pain pump ran out in 1 and 1/2 days and we had to remove the catheter early. I am not recovering at all.

Posted by

I've got a similiar experience;I used this device for almost a month after surgery on my right shoulder & have always had a lot of problems with my R/shoulder(regarding pain,etc) since then.The operation caused things to be much worse,instead of becoming better(regretfully).

Posted by

After a labrum repair was progressing and relatively pain free for several months. Then the shoulder started becoming very painful when actively elevating the arm. I went through a steadily increasing dosage of anti-inflamatories, cortisone shot and am now scheduled for a shoulder replacement because my new orthopedist says my shoulder is bone on bone. I'm 35 years old and having to have a shoulder replacement because of this pain pump.


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