An Orthopedic Specialist’s Guide to Total Shoulder Replacement

total shoulder replacement

If your shoulder has been severely damaged by arthritis, you may need a total shoulder replacement. Here’s what to expect.

A total shoulder replacement provides relief to people suffering from arthritis or another orthopedic disorder in the shoulder joint. According to the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 53,000 Americans undergo shoulder replacement surgery each year.

If your orthopedist recommends a total shoulder replacement, it’s likely because the joint has been severely damaged by osteoarthritis, a degenerative condition in which the cartilage wears down to the point where the bones of the shoulder rub against each other. This friction causes pain and stiffness and limits your shoulder’s range of motion. A rotator cuff tear that leaves the shoulder immobile may also necessitate a total shoulder replacement. 

While these shoulder conditions may respond well to conservative methods, if these fail to reduce discomfort, total shoulder replacement surgery may be the best option.

What is Total Shoulder Replacement Surgery?

Your shoulder is able to rotate freely because of its ball and socket structure. At the top of the upper arm (humerus) is a ball that fits snugly into a socket in the shoulder blade. Holding the ball in the socket are ligaments and rotator cuff tendons.

Though there are several types of shoulder replacement surgeries, a total shoulder replacement involves removing the entire joint. A steel prosthesis ball is placed at the tip of the humerus and slipped in a plastic cup that replaces the damaged shoulder socket. The plastic cup is either cemented or fitted into the remaining bone. During the operation, your surgeon will select the prosthesis that best matches the size of your bone structure.

Recovery After Shoulder Surgery

Total shoulder replacement is a major surgery and you may need to stay in the hospital for several days after the procedure. During your stay, you’ll be given pain medication and antibiotics to prevent infection as well as blood thinners to lower the risk of blood clots.

Soon after surgery, you’ll begin a physical therapy program to restore range of motion in the shoulder joint. Exercises focus on stretching and strengthening the surrounding muscles and tendons. Applying cold compresses to the shoulder may also help alleviate pain.

Every patient’s recovery is different, but after roughly three months of physical therapy, you’ll be ready to return to your normal daily activities. However, a complete recovery may take several more months, and you may be advised not to drive for several weeks. Your orthopedist will check in regularly on your progress following surgery. 

A recent survey of 61 patients who had undergone a total shoulder replacement highlights the success rate of the procedure. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, 93 percent said they were happy with the results of the operation, and 96.4 percent reported they were able to participate in a sport about six months after the surgery.

Learn More About Total Shoulder Replacement

At New York Bone & Joint Specialists, our physicians, surgeons, and physical therapists treat a variety of shoulder and other orthopedic disorders. We understand the decision to undergo joint replacement surgery is a difficult one, and we’re here to help you make the right choice for your individual circumstances. We’ll tailor your rehabilitation program for your unique needs and help get your shoulder moving pain-free again. 

Contact us today to set up an appointment.

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