Total Shoulder Replacement

Annual Bone & Joint Section

For patients facing pain and chronic stiffness in their shoulder, a total shoulder replacement could be the answer.

By Lucy Morris


Who Needs a Shoulder Replacement?

If arthritis in your shoulder is causing you extreme pain and interfering with everyday activities, and nonsurgical treatments haven’t relieved your symptoms, you may be a candidate for shoulder replacement surgery. While shoulder replacements cannot correct damage to your rotator cuff, which commonly coexists with arthritis in the shoulder joint, they are highly effective in treating arthritis pain caused by cartilage degeneration and bone-on-bone friction.


What Can You Expect from the Procedure?

During the procedure, your surgeon will remove the damaged ends of bone and cartilage in your shoulder and replace them with artificial parts. A typical total shoulder replacement involves replacing the joint surfaces with a smooth plastic shell (socket) and a metal ball attached to a stem. The surgery takes approximately three hours.


How Do You Recover?

Following total shoulder replacement, patients typically stay in the hospital overnight. During this time, you will work with a physical therapist, who will teach you gentle exercises to begin right away and give you a program of exercises to perform at home. Early motion after surgery is critical for restoring optimum shoulder function. When you are not exercising it, your arm will remain in a sling or brace for protection and support.


When Will You See Results?

During the first four to six weeks following surgery, your arm will remain in a sling as your shoulder heals. You will also continue a gentle physical therapy program to strengthen your shoulder and improve flexibility. As your body continues to adjust to the new joint, you will begin to see gradual improvements in your pain level and range of motion. In the first two weeks, patients should see significant reduction in their pain levels. By three to four months, most see about 80% of the shoulder function return. Up to one year, they may continue to see improvements in strength and range of motion.


How Long Does a Shoulder Replacement Last?

A properly performed total shoulder replacement will last between 10 and 20 years. But with continual advancements in surgical techniques and prosthetic designs, these numbers may improve. The longevity of your replacement will depend on your age, hand dominance, physical demands, and compliance with limitations. HS

Dr. Scott Steinmann Orthopedic Surgeon Erlanger Orthopaedics gives expert advice on total shoulder replacements

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