Shoulder Replacement

Specialists at MaineHealth offer advanced orthopedic care for patients who need a shoulder replacement. Orthopedic surgeons are available to answer any questions and address concerns about shoulder replacement that current or prospective patients may have.

What is a shoulder replacement?

The shoulder is called a ball-and-socket joint. The ball is the head of the upper arm bone, which fits into a shallow socket in the shoulder blade. The socket is called the glenoid. This type of joint allows you to move your arm in most directions.

For shoulder replacement surgery, the damaged bone in the shoulder is removed. The bone is then resurfaced and a replacement shoulder joint, called a prosthetic joint, is implanted in its place. Prosthetic joints are made of plastic or metal. Your surgeon will select the prosthetic joint that matches your body the best.

When is a shoulder replacement surgery performed?

Shoulder replacement surgery is usually done when you have severe pain in the shoulder area and limited arm movement. Some causes of shoulder pain include:

  • Osteoarthritis: the wear and tear of cartilage that cushions bone of shoulder
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: chronic inflammation of joints
  • Poor result from a previous shoulder surgery
  • Badly broken bone in the arm near the shoulder
  • Badly damaged or torn tissues in the shoulder
  • Tumor in or around the shoulder

There are several reasons why your doctor may recommend shoulder replacement surgery. People who benefit from surgery often have:

  • Severe shoulder pain that interferes with everyday activities
  • Moderate to severe pain at rest
  • Loss of mobility in the shoulder
  • Reduced movement
  • Failure to substantially improve with other treatments, including anti-inflammatory medicine, cortisone injections, or physical therapy.

 An orthopedic surgeon will do an evaluation to determine if you can benefit from a shoulder replacement.

Shoulder replacement evaluation

Some components of an evaluation with an orthopedic surgeon may include:

  • A medical history questionnaire to gather information about health status and to assess the extent of shoulder pain.
  • A physical examination to assess shoulder mobility and strength.
  • X-rays to help to determine the severity of shoulder damage.
  • Blood tests
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to determine bone and soft tissue condition
  • Bone scan

What are the risks of having a shoulder replacement?

Shoulder replacement has potential risks and complications directly related to the surgery and those that can develop gradually after your surgery.

  • Reactions to medicine
  • Breathing problems
  • Bleeding, blood clot, or infection
  • Allergic reaction to the artificial joint
  • Blood vessel damage
  • Bone fracture
  • Nerve damage
  • Dislocation of the artificial joint
  • Loosening of the implant

Shoulder replacement recovery

A well-designed recovery plan is critical to the success of a shoulder replacement. Recovery for shoulder replacement usually includes:

  • Pain medication to reduce pain and inflammation

  • Physical therapy soon after the operation to keep the muscles around your shoulder from getting stiff and to learn how to move your shoulder.

  • Home exercise program to restore shoulder strength and flexibility

  • Using a sling to keep the shoulder from moving.