In a shoulder replacement surgery, the affected areas of the shoulder are replaced with a prosthesis. The replacement is done of either the head of the humerus bone (ball) or replacement of both the ball and the socket (glenoid). This surgery is quite uncommon in comparison to the knee or hip replacement surgeries but is known to be equally effective in relieving the joint pain.

There are three types of shoulder replacement surgeries:

  1. Total shoulder replacement, where the complete joint is replaced with a prosthesis
  2. Partial shoulder replacement, where only the affected area is healed
  3. Revision shoulder replacement, where another surgery is conducted if the primary one raised any complication

This surgery was first performed in the 1950s, in the United States for treating severe shoulder fractures. With the passage of time, doctors have recommended it for the treatment of other conditions of the shoulder, like various forms of arthritis. Doctors usually recommend this option only if the non-surgical alternatives are not helpful for a speedy and effective recovery.

Cause: There are numerous possible causes of a shoulder disability and pain, which will lead to surgery.

Following are the popular causes:

  1. Osteoarthritis (Degenerative Joint Disease): This condition occurs mostly due to age. It is a typical “wear and tear” kind of arthritis. Usually, people older than 50 years of age face this situation. What happens is, that the cartilage which is cushioned between the bones of the shoulder becomes soft and wear away. Eventually, the bones rub against one another, leading to immense pain and stiffness. Sadly, no ways have been found to prevent osteoarthritis, as of now.
  2. Rheumatoid arthritis: In this disease, the synovial membrane surrounding the joint, inflames and thickens. This can lead to the cartilage being damaged, and causing pain, stiffness, and cartilage loss. This arthritis is one of the most popular groups of disorders known as “inflammatory arthritis.”
  3. Post-traumatic arthritis: This is known to follow a serious shoulder injury. The bones which make up the shoulder are fractures, or the shoulder tendons tear. Ligaments damaging the articular cartilage with time can also lead to post-traumatic arthritis. Pain and limited movement of the shoulder are the indications.
  4. Rotator cuff tear arthropathy: Patients with large-sized and long-standing rotator cuff tear have the possibility of developing cuff tear arthropathy. The reason behind the growth of this condition are the changes in the shoulder joint because of the rotator cuff tear, leading to arthritis and the damage of the cartilage.
  5. Avascular necrosis (Osteonecrosis): Avascular necrosis is a painful condition, which occurs due to the disruption of the blood supply to the bone. The bone cells die as a result, which leads to arthritis, and ultimately the destruction of the shoulder. Risk factors include deep sea diving, chronic steroid use, sickle cell disease, heavy alcohol, and immense fracture of the shoulder.

Evaluation and treatment: The orthopaedic surgeon may consider a bunch of tests before deciding for the surgery. Before making up your mind about the surgery, please discuss with your doctor regarding the potential risks and complications.

It would be wise to make some small changes at home, which will help you to cope with the shoulder during the recovery period. Place important items on lower shelves, and hire help for your daily work like cooking, laundry, dressing, etc.

The surgery will take only two hours to complete. The doctors may recommend some antibiotics and pain relief pills. Proper rehabilitation is crucial for speedy recovery, so take care of the wound and adjust to the restricted movement, so as to put no unnecessary pressure on the shoulder.