Shoulder replacement or “arthroplasty” is the most common and successful operation for arthritis. Similar to hip replacement and knee replacement it involves removing the arthritic joint surfaces and replacing them with a metal or plastic “prosthesis” or implant.
The shoulder can suffer from several types of arthritis e.g. inflammatory arthritis, osteoarthritis, and cuff tear arthritis. The type of arthritis you have will determine the type of replacement or “prosthesis” you have
Shoulder replacement is a very effective operation, with a long track record of success, though, like all major surgery, there are risks such as infection, fracture and dislocation. Your surgeon will discuss the type of replacement and the relevant risks with you before deciding on any operation.
You will normally come to the hospital on the day of your surgery. You will usually have any tests required e.g. blood tests, performed in the outpatients before your arrival. If you are a smoker, stopping at least 48 hours before your surgery is advisable for the anaesthetic. You should bring details of all your medications with you when you are admitted.
Shoulder replacement surgery
Shoulder replacement is an open operation involving an incision at the front of the shoulder. Usually, it will involve a general anaesthetic, often with a regional nerve block (local anaesthetic) to numb the arm as well. The operation takes about 2 hours and you will usually need to stay in hospital for 2 or 3 nights following the operation.
Shoulder replacement recovery
You will start gentle physiotherapy immediately after surgery and you will need to wear an arm sling for roughly 4 – 6 weeks, during which time you will be unable to drive. There will usually be stitches in the wound which will be removed 10 days after the operation. Physiotherapy is extremely beneficial in the recovery period (6-8 weeks), but it can take up to six months for the full benefit of a joint replacement. Regular follow-up appointments will be arranged with your surgeon to obtain further x-rays and check on your progress.