Total Shoulder Replacement

3d rendered illustration of a shoulder replacement

Shoulder replacement hardware

The shoulder is made up of three bones: the humerus (the upper arm bone), the shoulder blade, and the collarbone. Other parts comprising the shoulder include the ball, which is the humeral head of the upper arm bone. It fits into the rounded socket in the shoulder blade, called the glenoid. Both of these surfaces are covered by articular cartilage that helps the bones glide smoothly against each other instead of grinding. Another type of cartilage called the labrum surrounds the glenoid to add stability and cushion the joint.

The shoulder capsule is surrounded by ligaments and tendons that hold the shoulder together. This bundle is called the rotator cuff. It covers the ball of the shoulder and attaches it to the shoulder blade. The rotator cuff also helps to keep the humerus centered in the shoulder socket.

During shoulder replacement surgery, the artificial components replace the damaged parts of the shoulder.

Who should have a total shoulder replacement?

Potential candidates for shoulder replacement surgery often suffer from:

  • Loss of motion or strength in the shoulder
  • Severe pain that limits everyday activities
  • Moderate to severe pain while sleeping

If non-surgical treatments, like physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medicines and cortisone injections have not relieved this pain, it may be time to speak with your physician about shoulder replacement options.

What to expect before, during and after surgery

You may be referred to an orthopaedic specialist to be evaluated prior to your surgery. During this evaluation, you will likely speak with your specialist about your medical history, have x-rays taken and have your shoulder examined. Other tests (blood draws, MRI’s, bone scans) may be required. Be sure to inform your orthopaedic specialist about all medications you currently take.

There are several types of shoulder replacements. Your physician will decide which is appropriate based on your individual situation. These replacements include:

  • Total shoulder replacement: the most common of replacement surgeries. The damaged joint is replaced with a smooth metal ball attached to a stem joined with a plastic socket to relieve pain.
  • Stemmed hemiarthroplasty: replacement of just the ball of your shoulder. This procedure is recommended for those with severely weakened bone in the glenoid.
  • Resurfacing hemiarthroplasty: an alternative to stemmed shoulder replacements, this protehtsis replaces the ball of the shoulder to preserve the bone in the arm. Patients who young or active may be good candidates for this procedure, as it’s easier to convert to a total replacement at a later time.
  • Reverse total shoulder replacement: this procedure is usually performed on patients who have had a traditional shoulder replacement fail, or have torn rotator cuffs. Instead of having the ball portion attached to a stem in the humerus, a plastic socket is attached to the upper arm bone and the ball is joined to the shoulder bone.

You will most likely be able to return home after a two to three hospital stay. After surgery, you’ll need assistance for the first few weeks with daily tasks like cooking, cleaning, driving and bathing. You’ll also start physical therapy soon after your operation. Your arm will be in a sling for the first two to four weeks following your procedure, and it will be crucial to do at-home exercises recommended by your medical team to regain strength and mobility.

To learn more about our shoulder specialists, visit

Total Shoulder Replacement

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