Shoulder arthritis and shoulder replacement surgery

Shoulder replacement

Shoulder arthritis and shoulder replacement surgery

Shoulder Arthritis is a general term describing pain and stiffness in the shoulder joint. When there is associated joint and cartilage destruction, joint replacement surgery (also known as arthroplasty) should be considered. 

Shoulder Joint Arthritis causes

The main causes of shoulder joint arthritis are:

  • Osteoarthritis – Degenerative disease due to long term use
  • Rheumatoid arthritis – Autoimmune disease affecting joints
  • Post-injury osteoarthritis – Accelerated wear of the joint surfaces
  • Rotator cuff arthropathy – Destruction of the joint due to chronic large rotator cuff tendon tears.

Aims of shoulder arthroplasty

The primary goal of joint replacement surgery is to alleviate pain and stiffness, allowing a person to return to pre-arthritis activities and improve their quality of living.

The Artificial Joint

The artificial joint, or prosthesis, is made of metal alloy and polyethylene plastic. Some prostheses are secured in the bone with bone cement, whereas others have a special coating (hydroxyapatite) that binds with the bone and does not require cement for fixation. There are different kinds of shoulder replacement prostheses.

The most used one is a reverse total shoulder replacement where the ball and socket are both replaced but reversed. This allows for better movement despite severe rotator cuff disease.

Reverse shoulder replacement
Reverse total shoulder replacement

Another option is an anatomical total shoulder replacement where both the ball and socket are replaced in their normal positions. This is done when there is still good rotator cuff function without any tears.

anatomical shoulder replacement
Anatomical total shoulder replacement
Shoulder Surgery and Rehabilitation

Shoulder replacement surgery is considered a major operation. It generally takes about 90 minutes and requires a one-night stay in the hospital. After surgery, an arm sling needs to be worn for comfort and protection for approximately 6 weeks. 

It can be removed for showering, physiotherapy and guided exercises and also when seated and resting. The surgical wound takes about 10 days to heal after which pain medication can be decreased. 

Significant improvement in discomfort can be expected from 6 weeks onwards and return to normal activities can be started in a stepwise fashion. Activities such as swimming, golf, bowls and tennis can be returned to once your physiotherapist and doctor have assessed your rehabilitation as adequate.

If you have any further questions about shoulder arthritis, please contact us.