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Shoulder replacement surgery

Shoulder replacement surgery is a procedure to eliminate the pain commonly caused by osteoarthritis in the shoulder joint. The aim is to reduce pain and restore mobility in the shoulder.

Initially, you may be able to manage arthritis with non-surgical methods or keyhole surgery. However, if arthritis reaches an advanced stage and it is causing you pain or affecting your ability to be independent, the ball and socket of the shoulder may need to be replaced.

If you are experiencing pain in your shoulder joint, book a consultation with a specialist. Following a physical examination and diagnostic scans, the specialist will be able to recommend the best treatment option for you.

Types of shoulder replacement

There are two different types of shoulder replacement surgery. Your consultant will advise which is the most appropriate for you.

Anatomical replacement: This is surgery to replace the ball and socket of the shoulder joint with a prosthesis. This procedure can be suitable for younger patients whose shoulder tendons have the strength to support the new joint.

Reverse replacement: This is when the replacement ball and socket swap positions in the joint. This procedure can be suitable for older patients, for whom the tendons may have weakened or even torn. This is because the new positioning enables the deltoid muscle to support the joint.

Your shoulder replacement questions answered

The shoulder joint can wear out just like any other joint. Shoulder replacement surgery is a procedure to replace the smooth surface of the humeral head (ball) and the glenoid (socket).

Most patients find that shoulder replacement surgery reduces their pain – in fact, many of our patients tell us that they wish they’d done it sooner. Shoulder replacement surgery can also help older patients to stay mobile and independent for longer.

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease which describes the wearing down of the cartilage in your joints. When the cartilage wears away, it causes bone to rub against bone, which can be very painful.

Arthritis also prevents the muscles in the joint from doing their job and creates stiffness, both of which can affect the function of the joint.

Most shoulder replacement surgeries are carried out due to severe arthritic damage to the shoulder. However, you might also be a candidate for a replacement if there has been trauma to the joint or if it has become diseased. Most patients will present with pain, but also stiffness and loss of function.

If your consultant suspects that the issue is arthritis in the joint, they will refer you for a scan to confirm the diagnosis. If they also suspect that the tendons are damaged or weakened, they will refer you for an MRI to take a closer look. We offer these scans at Sulis Hospital Shoulder and Elbow Unit for faster access to diagnostics.

Shoulder replacement surgery is usually recommended when other strategies, such as steroids or behaviour modification, have not been effective.

You will need to tell your consultant about any medications you are taking, and you may be asked not to eat anything on the day of your surgery. You will also need to arrange for someone to pick you up from the hospital, as you won’t be able to drive after surgery.

It’s our aim to ensure you are fully prepared ahead of surgery and supported afterwards. This includes working with our physiotherapists, who may advise you to do certain exercises before and after surgery to strengthen your shoulder muscles and enhance your recovery.

Shoulder replacement surgery is a procedure to replace the glenohumeral joint – the arthritic ball and socket – with a prosthesis. The procedure usually takes around 2-3 hours, during which you will be placed under general anaesthetic. You will be positioned so that the surgeon can access the shoulder easily.

The first part of the procedure involves removing the damaged humeral head and fitting a new part in its place. The shoulder replacement system will be carefully selected and adjusted to suit your anatomy. Next, the surgeon will smooth the socket joint to remove any remaining cartilage and fit the prosthesis. They will use a graft of your own bone within the new joint part, using your own biology to promote healing and prevent loosening over time.

Sometimes, arthritis can lead to a deformity in the joint, which can make surgery more complex. In this instance, the surgeon can use a computer-navigated system to help position the implant so that it corrects the deformity and improves the function of the new shoulder replacement.

Once the surgeon is happy with the fit, they will repair the tendons that they cut to access the joint, and you will return to your private room to recover.

We find that most of our patients can return home the day after their surgery. It is likely that you will be wearing a sling for a few weeks. This is to protect the tendons in your shoulder, which take around 6 weeks to heal. For some patients, it’s possible to remove the sling the day after surgery, although heavy lifting will be restricted.

Physiotherapy starts straight away, but it involves gentle and careful movements at first. After 6 weeks, patients begin the full rehabilitation programme.

There are several factors that impact the time it takes to make a full recovery, including the strength of the muscles in the shoulder. The aim of physiotherapy is to strengthen the muscles that support the joint and enhance your recovery.

Shoulder replacement surgery typically has good outcomes (the complication rate is lower than 5% ). However, no surgery is without risk, including those associated with the anaesthetic.

The risks associated with shoulder replacement surgery can include infection, nerve damage (rare) or dislocation of the shoulder. It is also possible for the prosthesis to loosen over time (3% over a 10-year period ).

Your consultant will discuss any risks and the limitations of surgery with you ahead of the procedure.

You may be covered by private medical insurance, or you may wish to consider spreading the cost of your surgery by opting for a monthly payment plan.

We aim to make our costs as transparent as possible, but it’s important to talk everything through in detail with your consultant at the time of your appointment. Some costs may be paid directly to the hospital, while others, such as your consultant fees, may be paid directly to the consultant.

Sulis Hospital Bath

To understand more about shoulder placement surgery, watch the video here.

Our Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeons are highly experienced at performing shoulder replacement surgery, performing far above the average number of procedures per year.

You’ll also benefit from our state-of-the-art facilities and a team of expert theatre nurses, anaesthetists, physiotherapists and occupational therapists. If you are experiencing shoulder pain, get in touch today to book your initial consultation.

Treatment Overview

Combining a calming hospital environment with outstanding patient care so you can recover as quickly as possible.

  • Type of anaesthetic General

  • Covered by health insurance? Yes

  • Can I pay privately? Yes

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