During a shoulder replacement surgery, the damaged bone is removed and replaced with artificial components (implants) made of plastic or metal. Another name for this procedure is shoulder arthroplasty.

As you may already know, the shoulder has a ball and socket joint. The shallow socket in the shoulder harbors the upper arm bone’s spherical head (ball). Therefore, any joint damage can result in pain, weakness, and stiffness. 

Several shapes and sizes of shoulder implants are available, and partial and total replacement options employing anatomic or reverse implants are common. After the surgery, patients report a better range of motion, increased shoulder strength, and less pain.

Why undergo shoulder replacement surgery?

Total shoulder replacement surgery is a remedy for symptoms resulting from shoulder joint damage. Most conventional total shoulder replacement surgery candidates have moderate to severe joint degeneration seen on X-rays and other imaging, as well as osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. In fact, the surgery is considered the standard treatment for osteoarthritis.

Frequently, these patients describe the following:

  • Moderate to severe pain that becomes worse with activity
  • Sleep disturbance due to pain
  • Inability to elevate the affected arm to carry out regular activities like shampooing your hair or reaching high shelves
  • Pain and stiffness when reaching overhead
  • Insufficient pain relief through non-surgical methods, such as physical therapy, steroid injections, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs).
  • Candidates who may have attempted minor surgery, such as arthroscopic shoulder surgery, but the symptoms were not sufficiently relieved. 
  • Other reasons to undergo shoulder replacement surgery include a malignancy or severely shattered bone(s).

Types of procedures for shoulder replacement

Your doctor might suggest one of the following shoulder replacement alternatives depending on the kind of joint injury you have:

Anatomic total shoulder replacement

The implants mimic the organic form of the bones, and the surgery involves replacing both the ball and the socket.

Reverse total shoulder replacement

The implants are reversed, but the ball and socket are both replaced. The socket is linked to the upper arm bone, and the ball to the shoulder blade. If the rotator cuff is seriously injured, this technique is often selected.

Partial shoulder replacement

The joint’s head (ball) is the only part that gets replaced, and it might be the best option when the joint is just damaged on the ball side.

Possible side effects

The following are possible side effects after shoulder replacement surgery:

  • Dislocation. Your new joint’s ball can dislocate from its socket.
  • Fracture. The glenoid bone, scapula, or humerus might break during or after surgery.
  • Implant slipping. Although the components used to replace shoulders are strong, they may become worn or loosen with time. In some circumstances, you could require additional surgery to replace the loose parts.
  • Rotator cuff degeneration After a partial or complete anatomic shoulder replacement, the rotator cuff, a complex of muscles and tendons within the shoulder joint, can occasionally become worn out.
  • Nerve harm. The location where the implant is inserted may suffer from nerve damage. Numbness, weakness, and discomfort can be brought on by nerve injury.
  • Clots may develop in the arm after surgery, which is dangerous if it gets to the heart of the brain.

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