Your shoulder is a ball and socket joint. The top of your arm (humerus) fits into a socket (glenoid). Wear and tear or an injury can result in pain and restricted movement in the joint.
A common cause for shoulder replacement is arthritis.
If your shoulder pain does not respond to conservative treatment your consultant may recommend shoulder replacement.
What happens during shoulder replacement surgery?
Shoulder replacement is usually performed under general anaesthetic. The operation usually takes about 2 hours. Local anaesthetic may also be put into the joint to help with pain control following your surgery.
Your surgeon will make a cut on the front of your shoulder and remove the damaged ball (head of the humerus). They will replace the ball and sometimes also the socket (see figure 1). They may also make any necessary repairs to your rotator cuff tendons (tissue that attaches muscle to a bone). They will close your wound and a dressing may be applied. Your arm will be in a sling. Most patients stay in hospital 1 – 2 nights.
A physiotherapist will visit you before you leave hospital to show you gentle exercises. You will not be able to use your operated hand for up to 6 weeks following your surgery. Be sure and discuss any concerns you have about daily activities with our care team before you leave.
Going home after shoulder replacement
Your shoulder will be sore and swollen for several weeks. You should take any pain killers regularly to stay ahead of pain and help you get mobile. Use ice packs or a package of frozen peas wrapped in a towel to help reduce any swelling in your shoulder.
Keep your wound clean and dry until your follow-up appointment. Follow any instructions you are given regarding increasing your range of motion or decreasing the use of your sling.
Over the next few months you will work with a physiotherapist to progress to more vigorous exercise. It is important to keep up your exercises so that your shoulder does not become stiff.
Follow any instructions you are given regarding lift or reaching.
It can take up to 6 months to see significant improvement. Range of motion and strength in your shoulder will continue to improve for up to 2 years.
With any surgical procedure there can be complications including:
- Infection in the surgical site (incision) or joint
- Chest infection
- Heart attack or stroke
Specific complications of shoulder replacement:
- Nerve injury
- Fracture of the upper arm
- Rotator cuff tears
- Loosening of the joint.
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