Shoulder Replacement

Shoulder replacement surgery is an option for treatment of severe arthritis of the shoulder joint. Arthritis is a condition that affects the cartilage of the joints. As the cartilage lining wears away, the protective lining between the bones is lost. This causes painful bone rubbing against bone, and arthritis occurs.

Severe shoulder arthritis is quite painful, and can cause restriction of motion. Medication and conservative treatment may work for a while, however, the shoulder arthritis may get so bad that surgical treatment is necessary.

Total shoulder replacement surgery alleviates pain by replacing the damaged bone and cartilage with a metal and plastic implant. The shoulder joint is a ball-and-socket joint, much like the hip joint. The ball is the top of the arm bone (the humerus), and the socket is within the shoulder blade (scapula). This joint allows people an enormous range of motion at the shoulder.

When shoulder replacement surgery is performed, the ball is removed from the top of the humerus and replaced with a metal implant. This is shaped like a half-moon and attached to a stem inserted down the center of the arm bone. The socket portion of the joint is shaved to clean bone and replaced with a plastic socket that is cemented into the scapula.

Shoulder replacement surgery generally lasts about two hours. The incision for the surgery is along the front of the shoulder joint and usually about four to six inches long. The surgery is most commonly done under general anesthesia.

Hospital stays vary from one to three days for most patients. A sling is worn after discharge, and the arm should not be used unless instructed. Physical therapy is common to help strengthen the muscles around the shoulder and return to a normal range of motion. Usually within two to three months, patients are able to return to most normal activities and place an emphasis on strengthening the muscles around the shoulder and maintaining range of motion.