Total Shoulder Replacement Surgery

Total shoulder replacement surgery replaces the bones of the shoulder joint with artificial joint parts. The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint. The round end of the arm bone fits into the opening at the end of the shoulder blade, called the socket. This type of joint allows you to move your arm in most directions.

For total shoulder replacement, the round end of your arm bone will be replaced with an artificial stem that has a rounded metal head. The socket part of your shoulder blade will be replaced with a smooth plastic shell (lining) that will be held in place with special cement.

Who is a Candidate?

Shoulder replacement surgery is usually done to eliminate severe pain in the shoulder area, which limits your ability to move your arm. Causes of shoulder pain include:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Badly broken bone in the arm near the shoulder
  • Badly damaged or torn tissues in the shoulder
  • Tumor in or around the shoulder

Your doctor may not recommend total shoulder replacement if you have:

  • History of infection, which can spread to the replaced joint
  • Unhealthy skin around the shoulder area
  • Very weak (rotator cuff) muscles around the shoulder that cannot be fixed during surgery
  • Severe mental dysfunction

Total Shoulder Replacement Surgical Procedure

Your surgeon will make an incision over your shoulder joint to open up the area. Your surgeon will:

  • Remove the head (top) of your upper arm bone (humerus)
  • Cement the new metal head and stem into place
  • Smooth the surface of the old socket and cement the new one in place
  • Close your incision with staples or sutures
  • Place a dressing (bandage) over your wound

Your surgeon may place a drain in this area to carry out fluid that may build up in the joint after surgery. The drain will be removed when you no longer need it.

Shoulder replacement surgery usually takes one to three hours.

Shoulder Replacement Surgery Recovery

After surgery, you may stay in the hospital for one to three days. While there, you may receive physical therapy to help keep the muscles around your shoulder from getting stiff. Before you go home, your physical therapist will teach you how to move your arm around by using your other arm. With normal activity, most people who have had total shoulder replacement can expect their replacements to last 10 years.