When Are You a Candidate for a Shoulder Replacement? What Is the Procedure?
Though total knee and hip replacements are becoming more and more common, not many people know that you also can undergo a total shoulder-joint replacement. In fact, shoulder replacement surgery has been performed in the United states for nearly 75 years, with more than 50,000 Americans undergoing the procedure annually. Shoulder-replacement surgery is a complex procedure, though, often requiring significant rehabilitation and/or physical therapy to maximize your recovery. The good news is that most shoulder-replacement surgeries dramatically improve the lives of patients.
Determining Whether Shoulder Replacement Surgery Is Right for You
If you’ve already tried pain medication and physical therapy without success, you may be a candidate for shoulder-replacement surgery. Typically, an orthopedic surgeon will recommend the procedure if you are experiencing:
- loss of range of motion or pronounced weakness in your shoulder, including the inability to raise your arm above your torso or pick up normal objects without pain;
- substantial pain in your shoulder when performing routine daily activities, such as bathing, eating, dressing, or picking up/setting down items;
- significant pain even while resting, including sitting or sleeping; or
- minimal improvement with other treatment options, such as anti-inflammatories, PT, or cortisone injections.
As a part of the process to determine whether shoulder replacement is in your best interests, you’ll meet with an orthopedic surgeon, who will conduct a physical exam and compile a medical history. The surgeon may request X-rays, which can show bone abnormalities, and is likely to have an MRI or bone scan done.
The Total Shoulder-Replacement Process
The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint, one of the most flexible and complex in the body. During total shoulder replacement, the ball component of the shoulder is replaced with a polished metal ball (which is attached to a stem), and a plastic socket is implanted. Most often, the new ball and socket components are attached with bone cement.
The procedure is typically done under general anesthesia but may be completed with regional anesthesia only. The surgeon may perform the replacement either arthroscopically or through open surgery.