Shoulder Replacement Surgery

Shoulder Replacement Surgery

Shoulder replacement surgery is a treatment which is considered if your shoulder gets damaged seriously and you need surgery for replacing it. The procedure involves removing damaged areas of the shoulder and replacing them with artificial parts. This procedure helps relieve pain as well as improve mobility.


Shoulder replacement surgery is usually recommended for people with severe pain in the shoulder and those who have found no relief through other treatments. Conditions that can require shoulder replacement surgery include osteoarthritis, avascular necrosis, broken shoulder and rheumatoid arthritis. Other reasons for which one can go for this surgery include any other severe arthritis or a fracture in the shoulder joint.

A doctor usually tries to treat you with drugs or physical therapy before recommending surgery. Generally, it is recommended only when other treatment methods fail to work.


Few weeks before your procedure, your doctor might suggest you have a complete physical exam done. This will help to determine if you’re healthy enough for the surgery.

You may need to stop taking certain medications a few weeks before the procedure. Your doctor can also tell you to stop taking blood thinners. It’s best to discuss with your physician which medications you can still continue with.

On the day of your procedure, it may be a good idea to wear loose-fitting clothing as well as a button-up shirt.

Since driving is recommended only after you regain normal motion and strength in your shoulder, it is best if you can arrange for someone who will pick you up and take you home from the hospital around 4-5 days after the procedure.

Most people generally require some assistance for around six weeks after the surgery.


The surgery is performed under general anesthesia, which means you will be unconscious during the procedure. First, an orthopedic surgeon will be replacing the natural bone in the ball and socket of your shoulder joint. It will be replaced with a material that can be plastic or metal. This surgery can keep you in the hospital for several days. You will also need several weeks of physical therapy after the surgery.

Types of Surgery

Shoulder replacement surgeries are of three types:

Total shoulder replacement

Total shoulder replacement is the most common type of shoulder replacement surgery. The ball at the top of your humerus is replaced with a metal ball, which gets attached to the remaining bone. Then the socket is covered with a new plastic surface.

Partial shoulder replacement

In Partial shoulder replacement method, only the ball gets replaced.

Reverse shoulder replacement

Your doctor can choose Reverse shoulder replacement surgery if you have a torn rotator cuff. It is also done when another method didn’t provide fruitful results. The metal ball will be attached to your shoulder bones in this method, after which a socket will be implanted at the top of your arm.

The surgery takes around two hours. After it is complete, you will be taken to a recovery room. After you are awake, you will be moved to a hospital room.


You might need to spend around 2-5 days in the hospital after the operation before you go home. Your shoulder will be swelling and will also be causing pain. Your doctor will be prescribing few drugs in order to help you manage the pain. Cold compresses can also help control the swelling.

Initially, your arm will need to be in a brace to keep it from moving. Within a day or so, you will need to begin your physical therapy so that you are able to get your arm and new shoulder working.

You will need to keep continuing your physical therapy after you go home. These exercises will gradually improve how your new joint works. Remember not to rush things: It may require around a month before you are able to pick up anything heavier than a glass of water.

For most of your recovery, your arm will be in a sling. It might take six weeks or more before you will be able to drive again.

You will need to continue your follow-up visits with your doctor after you are healed, so he/she can see how your recovery is going.

Risks and Complications

Like other surgeries, shoulder replacement surgery has few risks. Although chances for complications are quite rare, you might experience one or more of the following:

  • Infection
  • Fracture
  • A reaction to anesthesia
  • Rotator cuff tear
  • Nerve or blood vessel damage
  • Loosening or dislocation of the replacement components

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