What Is It?

Total Shoulder Joint Replacement is a surgical procedure meant to repair damaged and degenerative portions of the shoulder joint, often through the use of higher functioning, prosthetic components.

Your body’s shoulder joint consists of three bones: your upper arm (humerus), shoulder blade (scapula) and collarbone (clavicle). The upper arm slides into a shallow socket within the shoulder blade, creating a ball-and-socket type joint which allows for an incredible overall range of motion. Throughout the joint, cartilage surrounds the ends of each bone and keeps them from painfully rubbing against each other. An assortment of muscles and tendons strengthen and hold the joint together, while a thin, cover-layer of tissue eliminates friction by releasing small amounts of moisturizing fluid.

Why Is It Done?

Arthritis is one of the most common causes of shoulder pain that requires surgical repair.

Osteoarthritis is age-related, primarily affecting individuals 50 years of age or older. Protective, mobilizing cartilage wears away over time, causing bones to painfully rub against each other.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disease that causes moisturizing tissue to swell and thicken. Over time, this inflammation disrupts cartilage and stiffens movement throughout the entire shoulder joint.

Post-traumatic arthritis follows many serious shoulder injuries. When ligaments and bones are damaged near the shoulder joint, cartilage can follow suit and limit functionality over time, even following the surgical treatment of major shoulder injuries. Severe fractures in the shoulder, specifically those that involve shattered bone fragments and can be difficult to repair, often call for a unique total replacement procedure. Long-standing tears on the rotator cuff can also cause changes within the joint and significantly damage cartilage.

Shoulder replacement surgery is typically recommended for older patients who are experiencing extreme amounts of shoulder pain and have not responded to other non-surgical treatment methods.

How Is It Done?

Depending on the specific injury involved, there are multiple types of shoulder replacement operations. All procedures require similar details, will involve anesthesia, and require a fairly large incision. Rather than completely replacing the shoulder joint, typical replacement surgery involves removing and reshaping the surface of the glenoid (socket). After the glenoid is reshaped and capped with plastic, a metal ball component and its stem is inserted into the end of the humerus. This ball is then positioned into the artificial, plastic socket within the shoulder blade to encourage natural mobility.

During preparation, your surgeon will likely schedule a complete physical examination to determine whether you’re healthy enough for surgery, and to learn of any medications you’re currently taking. Other simple ways to prepare for your operation involve eating healthy and planning ahead for early, post-surgery life at home.

Following surgery you’ll be given intravenous antibiotics along with other pain management and blood clot prevention medication throughout the first day of recovery.

Your shoulder will be bandaged and may contain a drain used to keep fluid from collecting near the repaired joint. Most individuals will return 24 hours after surgery and gentle exercise under the direction of a physical therapist. Physical therapy will continue for the next several months. Familiarizing your reconstructed joint with regular motion is pivotal within the first 6 weeks of recovery. Afterwards, rehabilitation is focused on more extensive stretching, exercise, and strength training.