Total Shoulder Replacement

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In a total shoulder replacement, the damaged parts of the joint are replaced with metal or other materials.

Understanding Total Shoulder Replacement

 Total shoulder replacement is a common surgery and very effective for pain relief and increasing mobility. Typically, total shoulder replacement will involve replacing the head or ball of the upper arm bone (humerus) and the socket in the shoulder blade (scapula).  The head of the humerus is replaced with a ball that is attached to a stem which is anchored inside the arm bone for stability. The artificial socket is firmly to the shoulder blade. The artificial joint is often made of metal, plastic, or a combination.

Total shoulder replacement surgery often involves general anesthesia, allowing the patient to remain unconscious throughout the surgery. Sometimes a doctor and patient will choose a regional anesthetic in combination with general anesthesia. The surgeon will make an incision along the shoulder and upper arm.


Reasons for Total Shoulder Replacement

Stiffness, soreness, and a lack of mobility are common symptoms that can lead to a total shoulder replacement. Total shoulder replacements are often used to treat the following:

  • Fractures or other similar injuries
  • Arthritis of the shoulder
  • A rotator cuff tear


Risks of Total Shoulder Replacement

Possible risks that can occur with a total shoulder replacement are minor and occur rarely.

  • Shoulder stiffness
  • Instability
  • Infection
  • Nerve damage
  • Shoulder socket loosening

After Total Shoulder Replacement

Immediately following total shoulder replacement surgery, doctors will give you intravenous (IV) antibiotics for 24-hours and pain medication. You will wake up from surgery with an IV in your arm, a bandage on your shoulder, and, most likely, a drain to prevent fluid from building up around the joint. Sometimes, patients are given a compression sleeve to periodically squeeze your arm to keep the blood flowing and to prevent blood clots. Most patients leave the hospital 1 to 3 days after surgery.

After a total shoulder replacement, you will require physical therapy from the beginning. Early on, physical therapy will only require passive movements, meaning the therapist will move your arm for you. Physical therapy is a key part of a total shoulder replacement and is necessary for full recovery. It is important to follow the exercise program prescribed by your physical therapists and doctors.

You can expect to use your hand and wrist very soon after surgery. You will need to rest your upper arm and shoulder for six weeks after the surgery. At 6 weeks, you may engage in light activity, including recommended physical therapy. Depending on the speed of your recovery, you may be able to actively use your full arm between 8-16 weeks after surgery.


Orthopedic Surgeons

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