Shoulder Replacement Surgery | What to Expect

Many people suffer from chronic pain and limited motion in their shoulders as they age. Often this is the result of arthritis in the shoulder, or a break down in cartilage in the joint. If you have pain, limited function, and difficulty sleeping, and injections and other medications don’t seem to alleviate the pain, it might be time to consider a shoulder replacement.

What is shoulder replacement surgery?

Shoulder replacement surgeries involve removing damaged parts of the shoulder joint and replacing them with an artificial part made of titanium, stainless steel, and high-density plastic. These replacements are the ideal treatment method for patients with severe arthritis or severe fractures of the shoulder joint.

How should I prepare for a shoulder replacement?

For the most part, the preparation for a shoulder replacement should include how you are going to get from place to place, cook, and even shower for a few weeks following surgery. Plan ahead and arrange any help that you might need while you are recovering from surgery.

What takes place during the procedure?

The replacement surgery takes about two hours to complete. You will be under anesthesia during the procedure. Your surgeon will replace the damaged parts of your shoulder joint. The “ball” part of the joint is replaced with a metal ball, and the “socket” part of the joint will be replaced with a high-density plastic. After the procedure is completed, you will be moved into a recovery area.

What will my shoulder replacement recovery look like?

You should expect to be in the hospital overnight, but depending on your health, your surgeon may recommend a shoulder replacement in an out-patient (Ambulatory Surgery Center) setting. For the first couple of days, you might experience significant pain, but that will be managed with the appropriate medications for your pain levels. You might experience an immediate change with regard to the movement of your shoulder. It will feel smoother than it did prior to the operation.

Our physicians will normally prescribe physical therapy for shoulder replacement patients. Typically, physical therapy will last two months post-op, but some patients do take a bit longer. Expect to wear a sling anywhere from 2-4 weeks post-op and to do your physical therapy exercises at home.

After about two weeks, most patients get over the hump when it comes to pain, and will feel less pain than they experienced before the surgery. After a couple of months, we find that most patients are very happy with their shoulder replacement.

Are there complications with shoulder replacement surgery?

As with any surgery, there can be complications. Our main concern is an infection. The surgeons and surgical staff take a lot of precaution to prevent infections in our patients. At the time of surgery, you should expect to be given antibiotics.

How long will the shoulder replacement last?

Our experts at Front Range Orthopedics & Spine estimate that the average modern shoulder replacement lasts 15 years. In some patients, it can be even longer. If you ever need your replacement redone, the whole thing will be replaced with a new artificial shoulder. For most of our patients, one replacement will last for as long as they need it.

If you are struggling with shoulder pain from arthritis or another injury, and you want to know more about shoulder replacement surgery, schedule an appointment with one of our orthopedic surgeons at Front Range Orthopedics & Spine by calling 303.772.1600 or by filling out a new patient request form.

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