If your shoulder joint gets seriously damaged, you may ultimately need surgery to replace it. Your shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint. The ball at the top of your upper arm moves smoothly in the socket of your shoulder blade on a lining of cartilage. The cartilage prevents your bones from rubbing together. If your cartilage is damaged by injury or arthritis, this can make your joint painful and stiff.
When it comes to shoulder replacement surgery, the damaged parts of the shoulder are removed and replaced with artificial components, called a ‘prosthesis.’ The treatment options entail either replacement of just the head of the humerus bone (ball), or replacement of both the ball and the socket (glenoid).
When Should I Visit a Doctor for a Shoulder Replacement?
Shoulder injuries are frequent and expected, especially in athletes who use repetitive motions in their sport, such as swimmers, cricketers, tennis players, pitchers, and weightlifters. Suppose you are one of the many people experiencing weakness or have trouble lifting above shoulder level. In that case, you should consult with a doctor to prevent any further pain and discomfort and potential medical conditions.
Total shoulder replacement is usually a very successful procedure to reduce pain and restore mobility in patients with end-stage shoulder arthritis and, in some cases, after a severe shoulder fracture.
The benefits of successful shoulder replacement surgery include:
- Pain relief
- Restored motion, strength and function of the shoulder
- High success rate
- Protects from further joint damage
How Does Shoulder Replacement Surgery Work?
Usually, shoulder replacements are performed under general anaesthetic, and the operation can be between 90-120 minutes. First, the surgeon will make an incision on the front of the shoulder area and remove the damaged head of the humerus (ball from ball/socket joint). Next, the socket (the glenoid of the scapula) will be assessed individually to evaluate whether it will benefit the patient by being replaced. At this point, some individuals may need rotator cuff repair.
The wound is then closed and a dressing applied and the patient’s arm will be in a sling. Most people stay in overnight, with physiotherapy requiring some gentle exercises. Upon leaving the physiotherapy appointment, patients will be given an exercise regime to follow at home. Expect to wait up to 6-8 weeks before starting to use your arm and months before it is back to full strength; however, some people take 1-2 years to be back to pre-op level.
Risks of Shoulder Replacement Surgery
Like with any other procedure, there are some (rare) risks. These include:
- Ongoing stiffness and loss of function
- Fracture of arm and shoulder or prosthetic fracture
- Loosening of prosthesis
- Nerve damage leading to weakness or change/loss of sensation
How Much Does Shoulder Replacement Surgery Cost?
- The price for shoulder replacement surgery privately averages at around £5,000.
- On the NHS, the waiting time for shoulder replacement surgery tends to be a minimum of 6 months, but this has increased significantly due to the Coronavirus pandemic.