What You Need to Know Before Getting Shoulder Replacement Surgery

Photo by: Bigstockphoto
Photo by: Bigstockphoto

A shoulder replacement surgery is a medical procedure in which all parts of the glenohumeral joint are replaced by a prosthetic implant. This procedure is often recommended for patients afflicted with damaged shoulders or chronic arthritis.

How Total Shoulder Replacement Surgery Works

So what does total shoulder replacement surgery entails? This procedure is recommended only if there is no longer cartilage in the shoulder socket. Cartilage works by reducing friction and easing mobility in the shoulders. When the cartilage starts thinning out, the joints that connect the shoulder to the torso starts grinding into each other, causing pain.

The surgery involved replacing the upper humerus with a metal ball and the shoulder sockets with a plastic socket. Once the surgery is completed, the patient will no longer feel shoulder pain from a worn-out shoulder joint.

Who are the Likely Candidate for Total Shoulder Replacement Surgery

A shoulder replacement surgery is best for people afflicted with shoulder pain strong enough to limit day-to-day activities. If the pain is so severe that you cannot sleep or dress yourself and you no longer respond to any drugs or treatments, you are a likely candidate for shoulder replacement surgery.

Do note that doctors won’t readily advice this procedure to treat shoulder pain. You will be presented with other options. Shoulder replacement surgery is seen as the last resort to treat chronic and recurring pain. Other surgical options include Hemiarthroplasty and Reverse Total Shoulder Replacement.

Hemiarthroplasty is a surgical procedure that replaces the ball of the shoulder with a polished metal ball. This procedure is best for patients with good joint cartilage left. Reverse Total Shoulder Replacement are best for patients suffering from partial or complete rotator cuff tears. This is best only if the initial total shoulder replacement surgery failed.

What to Expect Before and After Surgery

Complications and Injuries

Although all types of shoulder surgeries are meant to ease pain, they are not 100% safe and effective. There are cases wherein after-surgery complications set in. These complications can be anything from infections to nerve injuries. In some cases, the shoulder becomes dislocated, prompting another surgery to position the shoulder back to its rightful place.

In addition, having metal or prosthetic implants does not make you impervious to shoulder injuries. Although you are allowed to conduct day-to-day activities, avoid activities that could re-injure your shoulders.

After-Surgery Treatment and Recovery

After surgery, your doctor will administer a cocktail of painkillers and antibiotics intravenously. The painkiller will dull the pain as you heal while the antibiotics cut the risk of infections. Recovery after surgery is fairly fast. It’s not unusual to leave the hospital two days after surgery.

Healing and Physical Therapy

Healing starts after surgery. As soon as you are able, your doctor will put you through physical rehabilitation. The process will require physical therapy and shoulder exercises. The program is meant to improve mobility, boost strength, and speed up the healing process.

As you heal, try not to lift your arm over your head or reach far behind the back. Once you’ve recovered completely from your operation, you can start living normally again. But do not strain yourself. Never lift heavy objects and do not put your arms in very awkward positions. You can only go back to activities that are more strenuous once you get the green light from your doctor.


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