Shoulder Replacement

The shoulder joint consists of a “ball and socket.” The head of the upper arm bone, or humerus, is the ball and fits into a very shallow circular hollow in the shoulder bone, or scapula, which is the socket. The socket is surrounded by soft tissue and the ball is coated with a smooth, durable covering, called articular cartilage. To provide fluid movement, the joint has a thin, inner lining. The surrounding muscles and tendons, also known as the rotator cuff tendons, provide stability and support to the shoulder.

Common conditions such as arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and other degenerative joint diseases as well as serious injuries can damage the shoulders’ smooth surfaces. With arthritis, the joint surface is destroyed by wear and tear, inflammation, injury or previous surgery. This can result in limited movement and cause your shoulder to feel stiff and painful when trying to function normally.

In these cases, your doctor may recommend shoulder replacement surgery, also called arthroplasty. Although this procedure is less common than hip and knee replacement surgery, it is just as safe and effective in relieving joint pain and restoring a person’s range of motion and quality of life.

Most people who undergo total shoulder replacement are 55 years of age or older, although people of all ages successfully undergo this procedure.

Patients may require a pre-operative health screening examination to ensure that they are ready for the surgery and to determine if any further testing is needed. Patients will have nothing to eat or drink on the day of surgery.

Shoulder replacement surgery lasts about two hours under general anesthesia. The incision for the surgery is along the front of the shoulder joint and usually about four to six inches long. Usually patients are in the recovery room for about an hour.

Hospital stays after surgery vary from one to three days for most patients. You will be sent home wearing a sling and you should not attempt to use the arm except as specifically instructed by your doctor.

Most physicians will begin some motion immediately following surgery. Usually within two to three months, patients are able to return to most normal activities. It is recommended that patients place an emphasis on strengthening the muscles around the shoulder and work on maintaining their range of motion.