Total Shoulder Replacement

Shoulder arthritis may cause excessive wear to the articular cartilage, which lines the joint. This can result in shoulder pain and loss of power/movement. Those with chronic shoulder pain or loss of movement may need to undergo shoulder replacement surgery, whereby, a prosthetic will be used in place of the original ball and socket joint.  Following surgery and recovery, most people notice a significant reduction in pain and an improvement in every day function. 

Who should consider total shoulder replacement surgery?

People with significant osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis are often candidates for total shoulder replacement surgery. 

Common symptoms for those with shoulder arthritis include:

  • Moderate to severe pain which worsens with activity
  • Poor sleep due to pain
  • Inability to perform daily tasks which require overhead arm movements
  • Joint stiffness

Symptoms may be relieved in the early stages of the disease using anti-inflammatory medications, making lifestyle changes and seeing a physiotherapist.  If pain still persists at a significant level, you should consult with your medical team to determine whether you may be a candidate for total shoulder replacement. 

How long does a total shoulder replacement last?

Total shoulder replacement surgery is typically only recommended for people over 50 years of age and those with severe arthritis.  You can expect a shoulder replacement to have a lifespan of around 10-15 years. 

The prostheses are comprised of metal and plastic, whilst the ‘ball’ in the humerus is made from metal alloy of titanium.  The ‘socket’ in the glenoid is made from a type of plastic called polyethylene. 

Total Shoulder Surgery – Process

Total shoulder replacement surgery takes around 2 to 3 hours.  Surgery involves an incision being made at the front of the shoulder, removing the damaged ball and socket and fitting the artificial components.  You will wake up with your arm in a sling and a drain attached to the wound.  Your medical team will provide you with an overview of the operation and care guidelines. 

Two days after surgery, an exercise program will commence.  Guided by your physiotherapist, you will perform a range of passive movements aiming to prevent post-operative stiffness.  You will also be provided with a list of exercises to perform at home. 

You should expect to spend at least four days in hospital.  Once you have been discharged, it is important that you continue to do passive exercise four times a day for six weeks.  The sling must remain on, and you should never elevate or rotate the operated arm. 

Your medical team will check in frequently to monitor your progress and adjust your recovery plan.  You should expect a total recovery time of between 6-12 months.