Background: While there have been numerous reports concerning the risk of pulmonary embolism after knee and hip arthroplasty, no such information is available for shoulder arthroplasty, as far as we know. The purpose of this study was to determine the prevalence of pulmonary embolism following shoulder arthroplasty.
Methods: A review of 2885 consecutive patients who underwent primary shoulder arthroplasty at our institution between June 30, 1981, and June 30, 2001, was performed to identify all patients who sustained a pulmonary embolism.
Results: During this time-period, five patients sustained a pulmonary embolism following shoulder arthroplasty. Three of the five presented with symptoms that were originally attributed to causes other than pulmonary embolism. None of the patients sustained a fatal pulmonary embolism.
Conclusions: The data from this study demonstrate that pulmonary embolism is an uncommon complication of shoulder arthroplasty and that surgeons should have a high degree of suspicion if patients have respiratory difficulty following shoulder arthroplasty.