It is a surgical procedure in which all or part of the glenohumeral joint is replaced by a prosthetic implant. Such joint replacement surgery generally is conducted to relieve arthritis pain or fix severe physical joint damage.
The decision to have shoulder replacement surgery should be a cooperative one between you, your family, your family physician, and your orthopedic surgeon.
There are several reasons why your doctor may recommend shoulder replacement surgery. People who benefit from surgery often have:
- Severe shoulder pain that interferes with everyday activities, such as reaching into a cabinet, dressing, toileting, and washing.
- Moderate to severe pain while resting. This pain may be severe enough to prevent a good night's sleep.
- Loss of motion and/or weakness in the shoulder.
- Failure to substantially improve with other treatments such as anti-inflammatory medications, cortisone injections, or physical therapy.
Shoulder replacement surgery is usually done when you have severe pain in the shoulder area, which limits your ability to move your arm.
Causes of shoulder pain include:
- Poor result from a previous shoulder surgery
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Badly broken bone in the arm near the shoulder
- Tumor in or around the shoulder
- Badly damaged or torn tissues in the shoulder
Your doctor may not recommend this surgery if you have:
- A history of infection, which can spread to the replaced joint
- Severe mental dysfunction
- Unhealthy skin around the shoulder area
- Very weak (rotator cuff) muscles around the shoulder that cannot be fixed during the surgery
Risks of anesthesia and surgery in general are:
- Reactions to medicines or breathing problems
- Bleeding, blood clot, or infection
Risks of shoulder replacement surgery are:
- Allergic reaction to the artificial joint
- Blood vessel damage during surgery
- Bone break during surgery
- Nerve damage during surgery
- Dislocation of the artificial joint
- Loosening of the implant over time
Tell your doctor or nurse what medicines you are taking. This includes medicines, supplements, or herbs you bought without a prescription.
During the 2 weeks before your surgery:
- You may be asked to stop taking medicines that make it harder for your blood to clot. These include aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Naprosyn, Aleve).
- Ask your doctor which medicines you should still take on the day of your surgery.
- If you have diabetes, heart disease, or other medical conditions, your surgeon will ask you to see your doctor who treats you for these conditions.
- Tell your doctor if you have been drinking a lot of alcohol, more than 1 or 2 drinks a day.
- If you smoke, try to stop. Ask your doctor or nurse for help. Smoking can slow wound and bone healing.
- Let your doctor know right away if you get a cold, flu, fever, herpes breakout, or other illness before your surgery.
On the day of your surgery:
- You will likely be asked not to drink or eat anything for 6 to 12 hours before the procedure.
- Take the medicines your doctor told you to take with a small sip of water.
- Your doctor or nurse will tell you when to arrive at the hospital. Be sure to arrive on time.
- You may stay in the hospital for 1 to 3 days after your surgery.
- While there, you may receive physical therapy to help keep the muscles around your shoulder from getting stiff.
- Before you go home, the physical therapist will teach you how to move your arm around by using your other (good) arm to help.
- Your arm will need to be in a sling for 2 to 6 weeks with no active movement and 3 months before strengthening. It will be around 4 to 6 months of recovery.
- Follow any instructions you are given about how to care for your shoulder at home. This includes activities that you should not do.
- You will be given instructions on shoulder exercises to do at home. Follow these instructions exactly. Doing the exercises in a wrong way can injure your new shoulder.
- Follow instructions on how to take care of your wound and shoulder after you go home.