You will receive anesthesia before this surgery. Two types of anesthesia can be used:
General anesthesia, which means you will be unconscious and unable to feel pain.
Regional anesthesia to numb your arm and shoulder area so that you do not feel any pain in this area. If you receive regional anesthesia, you will also be given medicine to help you relax during the operation.
The shoulder is a ball and socket joint. The round end of the arm bone fits into the opening at the end of the shoulder blade, called the socket. This type of joint allows you to move your arm in most directions.
For total shoulder replacement, the round end of your arm bone will be replaced with an artificial stem that has a rounded metal head. The socket part (glenoid) of your shoulder blade will be replaced with a smooth plastic shell (lining) that will be held in place with a special cement. If only 1 of these 2 bones needs to be replaced, the surgery is called a partial shoulder replacement, or a hemiarthroplasty.
For shoulder joint replacement, your surgeon will make an incision (cut) over your shoulder joint to open up the area. Then your surgeon will:
Remove the head (top) of your upper arm bone (humerus)
Cement the new metal head and stem into place
Smooth the surface of the old socket and cement the new one in place
Close your incision with staples or sutures
Place a dressing (bandage) over your wound
Your surgeon may place a tube in this area to drain fluid that may build up in the joint. The drain will be removed when you no longer need it.
This surgery usually takes 1 to 3 hours.
Why the Procedure Is Performed
Shoulder replacement surgery is usually done when you have severe pain in the shoulder area, which limits your ability to move your arm. Causes of shoulder pain include:
Shoulder replacement surgery relieves pain and stiffness for most people. You should be able to resume your normal daily activities without much problem. Many people are able to return to sports such as golf, swimming, gardening, bowling, and others.
Your new shoulder joint will last longer if less stress is placed on it. With normal use, a new shoulder joint can last for at least 10 years.
C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.