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Find out about the procedure and what you can expect from your recovery
Your shoulder is made up of a ball and socket joint, where the ‘ball’ of your upper arm bone (humerus) fits into the ‘socket’ (known as the ‘glenoid’) of your shoulder blade. If this joint is damaged, particularly through the wear and tear of osteoarthritis, a shoulder replacement may be necessary.
In a standard shoulder replacement, an artificial ball and socket joint is created using metal and sturdy plastic. A healthy rotator cuff (the group of muscles and tendons surrounding the shoulder joint) is needed, as the new ball and socket joint requires these muscles and tendons to keep it in place. If these tendons are damaged or torn, as can happen with osteoarthritis, an alternative approach is used which relies on other muscles to support the new joint, such as the deltoids (back muscles).
Your orthopaedic surgeon may suggest a reverse shoulder replacement for other reasons, such as:
Prior to your surgery, your orthopaedic surgeon will thoroughly review your most recent X-rays and diagnostic scans, and will mark the appropriate shoulder site in preparation for surgery, finalising plans to ensure the operation is as safe and efficient as possible. They will also spend time with you at this stage to talk you through the procedure and answer any questions you may have. Many of our patients find this helps put them at ease prior to undergoing the operation.
As the operation will be carried out under general anaesthetic, our specialist anaesthetists will assess you and provide the necessary level, combining the general anaesthetic with a local anaesthetic which is injected directly into your affected shoulder. They will then monitor you closely throughout the procedure and check on your wellbeing after completion.
In the operating theatre, your orthopaedic surgeon will first make an incision at the front of your shoulder to allow access to the joint. Using specialist equipment, the head of the humerus and the glenoid will then be replaced with the metal ball and plastic socket, and cement and/or screws are used to fasten it in place.
You will usually need to rest your arm for four to six weeks in a sling with minimal movement of the joint during that time. Our physiotherapy team will see you regularly, providing you with specific exercises to help strengthen the muscles around the new joint and to increase your mobility. It can take several months for the pain to subside and mobility to be restored, but you should notice that the pain is considerably less than before your operation.