3 things to expect while waiting for a shoulder reconstruction


3 minutes

20 June 2019

Man in grocery store rubbing shoulder
Last updated:

Young adults – especially male athletes – are extremely susceptible to injury, with over 1,100 Aussies undergoing shoulder reconstruction surgery in 2018-20191.

A shoulder reconstruction involves repairing the torn or stretched ligaments of the shoulder. While the surgery typically only takes an hour to perform, that’s nothing compared to the time spent waiting for surgery if you're not covered by private health insurance.

So, what’s life like while you’re creeping up the wait list? We spoke to local Orthopaedic Surgeon Dr Peter Campbell to find out what a day in the life waiting for a shoulder reconstruction could look like.

Pain is a daily struggle

It won’t come as a shock that Dr Campbell says you can expect daily discomfort, but it’s the little things that the pain affects that you might not predict.

“People struggle with day-to-day life when they have these significant shoulder problems,” says Dr Campbell. “Pain with everyday activities and sporting activities is a common feature.”

Think about carrying in the groceries from the car, doing the heavy lifting at work or even play with the kids while carrying a shoulder injury.

Say goodbye to your Zzz’s

With daily pain comes sleepless nights. “Pain at night prevents people from sleeping or wakes them from sleep on a regular basis which can result in chronic sleep deprivation,” explains Dr Campbell.

Wait times are long

Based on recorded 2018-2019 wait times in WA1, once you’re in line for a shoulder reconstruction in the public system you could be waiting anywhere up to 154 days for surgery - and that’s not even including your ‘wait-to-wait’ time.

Less commonly known, ‘wait-to-wait’ refers to the period of time spent waiting to see a specialist, who then puts you on the formal waiting list for surgery.

According to HBF’s 2018 Waiting Lists Report2, the median wait-to-wait time alone is nearly 9 months.

In comparison, the advantage of the private system is that is has an average wait-to-wait time of only 2-3 weeks across the board and just 2-4 weeks for surgery2.

So, if you’re thinking of giving private health insurance the cold shoulder, it’s definitely worth checking out the wait times for surgery at your local hospitals.


  1. 1AIHW - Elective surgery waiting times multilevel data (2020)
  2. 2HBF - Wait Times Report (2018)