Shoulder Replacement Surgery: What to Know
Medically Reviewed by Tyler Wheeler, MD on December 08, 2019 from WebMD
If your shoulder joint gets seriously damaged, you might need surgery to replace it. Before you have your procedure, you should know some things.
About Your Shoulder
The joint where your upper arm connects to your body is a ball-and-socket joint. The bone in your upper arm, called the humerus, has a round end that fits into the curved structure on the outside of your shoulder blade.
Ligaments and tendons hold it together. Ligaments connect the bones, while tendons connect muscles to the bone. A layer of tissue called cartilage keeps the bones apart, so they don’t rub against each other.
The ball and socket lets you move your arm up and down, back and forward, or in a circle.
Why You’d Need It Replaced
You may have to have it done if you have a condition that makes it painful and hard to use your arm, such as:
- A serious shoulder injury like a broken bone
- Severe arthritis
- A torn rotator cuff
Your doctor will probably try to treat you with drugs or physical therapy first. If those don’t work, they may recommend surgery.
Shoulder replacement surgery is less common than hip or knee replacements. But more than 50,000 shoulder replacements are done in the U.S. each year.
What to Expect
An orthopedic surgeon will replace the natural bone in the ball and socket of your shoulder joint with a material that could be metal or plastic. It’s a major surgery that’ll keep you in the hospital for several days. You’ll also need several weeks of physical therapy afterward.
There are three types of shoulder replacement surgeries:
Total shoulder replacement: This is the most common type. It replaces the ball at the top of your humerus with a metal ball, which gets attached to the remaining bone. The socket gets covered with a new plastic surface.
Partial shoulder replacement: Only the ball gets replaced.
Reverse shoulder replacement: Usually, you’d get this if you have a torn rotator cuff. It’s also done when another shoulder replacement surgery didn’t work. The metal ball gets attached to your shoulder bones, and a socket is implanted at the top of your arm.
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