Shoulder Replacement Surgery FAQs

How do I know if I need shoulder replacement surgery?

If non-surgical treatments such as medications, anti-inflammatory injections, physical therapy, and other interventions are no longer helpful for relieving pain, you may be a candidate for shoulder replacement surgery.

People who benefit from shoulder replacement surgery often have certain symptoms such as:

  • severe pain in the joint that interferes with daily activities (dressing, washing, toileting, etc.)
  • pain while at rest, even while sleeping
  • loss of motion or weakness in the joint

What are some causes of shoulder pain and dysfunction?

  • Osteoarthritis and degenerative joint disease – the so-called “wear and tear” type of arthritis. This usually occurs in older people, but not always. In osteoarthritis, the cartilage that cushions the bones gets worn away leading to the bones of the joint rubbing together. Stiffness and pain in the joint are typical symptoms.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis – this is a chronic inflammatory disease of the joints and even other parts of the body. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder, meaning that your body’s immune system mistakenly attacks your own body tissues. Rheumatoid arthritis affects the lining of your joints causing painful swelling which can result in bone erosion and joint deformity.
  • Post-traumatic arthritis – this can come after an injury, usually a serious one, to the joint. Fractures of the bones, and tears in tendons and ligaments can lead to damage of the joint surfaces. Rotator cuff tear is a well known cause of damage to the shoulder joint. Over time, the damaged rotator cuff may lead to arthritic changes in the joint. Pain and reduced range of motion are common symptoms.
  • Avascular Necrosis – Also called Osteonecrosis is a condition where there is a loss or disruption of the blood supply to the bones. Without adequate blood supply, the bone cells begin to die off. When this happens to the bones of a joint like the shoulder, there will be damage to the joint and can lead to arthritis. There can be a variety of causes of this condition.

How long will I be at the Surgery Center?

You may be at the Center for up to 24 hours after your surgery. Your surgeon may request that you go to a rehab facility following discharge from the center for further physical therapy or you may return home for at home physical therapy.

Can a family member stay with me?

Your family can stay with you until you are taken to the operating room. Your family may stay in the waiting room or leave and provide a contact number. Our staff can notify your family/friend when it is an appropriate time to return to stay with you. Your ride may want to bring a pillow and blanket for you for the car ride home.

How long does surgery take?

Approximately 3 hours. Some of this time is required for the anesthesiologist to make sure that you are comfortable, and for the nursing staff to take care of you immediately before and after surgery.

How long is recovery after shoulder replacement surgery?

After the procedure, you may be asked to use an icing device to help control pain and swelling. Your arm will be in a sling for 3 to 6 weeks. Depending on your job, you may be able to return to work within several days or a week. Arm and shoulder movements are an important part of your recovery from surgery. You will be instructed on what exercises you should perform to help you regain full range of motion. It is vitally important that you perform your exercises as instructed to prevent your arm and shoulder from getting stiff. It is not uncommon to still have some pain in the shoulder even 6 weeks post surgery. Usually by the 3rd month post surgery, you should have minimal pain and the range of motion should be much improved. You should now be able to resume all normal daily activities. If you have completed all physical therapy as recommended, by 6 to 12 months after the surgery you should be fully pain free and you should have full range of motion and strength.

What are the complications of shoulder replacement surgery?

The complication rate for shoulder surgery is usually less than five percent, but can be as high as 12%. The most severe complications are typically less than three percent. These can be complications that do not require further surgical intervention such as temporary or permanent nerve damage, fractures, rotator cuff tears, joint instability, temporary dislocation, bleeding and others. Some complications require additional surgery, such as recurrent dislocations, infections, painful tendinitis, and shoulder joint contracture. The most severe complications require a revision of the implant, such as joint erosion, and implant loosening or malpositioning.

Your surgeon will discuss the possible risks and complications of any procedure you will undergo.