Shoulder replacement accounts for less than 10% of all joint replacements done each year but provides excellent pain relief and mobility in patients suffering from disabling arthritis of the shoulder. Standard shoulder replacement is a procedure in which the damaged cartilage of the upper end of the humerus bone as well as the socket (glenoid) is re-surfaced with components made of highly polished metal and specialized plastic (polyethylene). An incision is made in the front of the shoulder and the procedure takes just over one hour. Almost all patients are able to go home within 24 hours and many now have shoulder replacement in the outpatient setting. The recovery occurs in stages and includes approximately 6 weeks using a sling with several visits to physical therapy to accelerate recovery. Patients are expected to reach a higher level of mobility, engaging in recreation and daily activities with much less pain.
When arthritis of the shoulder is associated with rotator cuff tears, Reverse Shoulder Replacement is now a reasonable option to consider. The surgical steps and recovery process are similar but the ball and socket is replaced by a device that is designed to account for the loss of rotator cuff muscle The vast majority of shoulder problems can be managed without surgery, but shoulder replacement is an option for shoulder arthritis when non-operative measures fail to provide relief. Keep in mind that accelerated and problem-free recovery from shoulder replacement requires a dedicated and specialized surgery center with preparation in advance to reduce risk and optimize health before surgery.