The Painful Anterior Apprehension Test – an Indication of Occult Shoulder Instability
Introduction: To evaluate the clinical relevance of the painful anterior apprehension test in shoulder instability.
Materials and Methods: We performed a retrospective study of 155 patients that underwent arthroscopic anterior Bankart repair between 2014–2016. Exclusion criteria were previous ipsilateral shoulder surgery, bony Bankart lesions, glenohumeral osteoarthritis and concomitant surgery involving rotator cuff tears, biceps tendon pathology and superior labrum from anterior to posterior (SLAP) lesions. The study cohort was divided into three groups: apprehension test with apprehension only, apprehension test with pain only, and apprehension test with both apprehension and pain. Patient demographics, clinical characteristics, radiological imaging, arthroscopy findings and surgical outcomes (Constant, American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons (ASES), SF-36 scores) were evaluated.
Results: A total of 115 (74.2%) had apprehension only, 26 (16.8%) had pain only and 14 (9.0%) had pain and apprehension with the apprehension test. Univariate analysis showed significant differences between the groups in patients with traumatic shoulder dislocation (p=0.028), patients presenting with pain (p=0.014) and patients presenting with recurrent dislocations (p=0.046). Patients with a purely painful apprehension test were more likely to have a traumatic shoulder dislocation, more likely to present only with pain, and less likely to present with recurrent shoulder dislocations. Multivariate analysis showed that none of these factors alone were significant as single predictors for shoulder instability. All three groups were otherwise similar in patient profile, MRI and arthroscopic assessments, and clinical outcomes of surgery. Excellent clinical outcomes were achieved in all groups with no difference in pre-operative and post-operative scores across all groups at all time points.
Conclusion: The painful apprehension test may suggest underlying shoulder instability.
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