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Anchors: Do They Come Out?

As we mentioned in a previous post, most suture anchors stay in your bone for life. The technology has advanced to such a degree, that they are extraordinarily reliable and rarely come out. While we don’t have exact numbers, our experience as surgeons tells us that it is rare for them to “back-out” of bone as we just do not see it that commonly in our practices.

But what if they do? There are times when anchors may not last forever. Busy shoulder surgeons have all seen anchors that have “backed out” of bone.

Anchors may “come out” of bone for one of 2 main reasons:
1. The anchor broke or malfunctioned
2. The bone failed.

The good news is that this is rare, very rare. Many new anchors are actually made of a bone-like material that turns into real bone slowly over time. So as long as the surgeon initially places the anchor well into bone, it will slowly become your own bone.

Sometimes bone is just too weak to hold anchors well. Again, this is relatively rare since the technology has advanced to the point where there are anchors for all types of bone. If the bone is too weak, the surgeon will usually be able to recognize this at the time of surgery and use a special strategy to accommodate for the weak bone.

What if an anchor does break or back out? In rare cases this may cause local tissue irritation. If the anchor becomes too prominent and it is near cartilage it is possible to damage cartilage. We live in a world with many options: anchors made of metal, plastic, all suture, and biocomposite materials. Each has their own place and makes it possible for us to repair many different types of problems around the shoulder.