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Shoulder Replacement Surgery

Performing a Replacement Surgery

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Updated July 01, 2014

Shoulder replacement surgery lasts about two hours. The incision for the surgery is along the front of the shoulder joint and usually about four to six inches long. The surgery is most commonly done under general anesthesia.

Patients may require a pre-operative health screening examination to ensure that they are ready for the surgery and to determine if any further testing is needed. Patients will have nothing to eat or drink on the day of surgery. Time in the operating room may be more than three hours (because of anesthesia and preparation), and usually patients are in the recovery room for about an hour.

Shoulder Replacement Rehab

Hospital stays vary from one to three days for most patients after shoulder replacement. You will be sent home wearing a sling and you should not attempt to use the arm except as specifically instructed by your doctor.

Most physicians will begin some motion immediately following surgery, but this may not be true in every case. Usually within two to three months, patients are able to return to most normal activities and place an emphasis on strengthening the muscles around the shoulder and maintaining range of motion.

Risks of Shoulder Replacement

As always, risks of surgery include risks of general anesthesia which tend to be dependent on other medical issues you may have. Some specific risks of shoulder replacement surgery include:
  • Infection
    Infection around an implanted joint is a very serious complication and therefore there are significant measures taken to avoid this complication. If an infection develops, the entire implanted joint may need to be removed in order to eradicate the infection.
  • Dislocation/Instability
    Because of the ball-and-socket design of the implanted joint, it is important that the surgeon balance the soft-tissues around the shoulder to ensure it is not pulled out of position.
  • Loosening of the Implant
    Over time, implanted joints may loosen. Developments are constantly being made to produce longer-lasting implanted joints, but this has not been perfected. If an implant loosens to the point where patients are having significant problems, a revision surgery may need to be performed (a replacement of a joint replacement).
  • Damage to Nerves or Blood Vessels
    The shoulder is a tight space, and many important structures pass just next to the shoulder joint. The nerves that send and receive messages to and from your hand and arm, as well as the blood vessels that provide circulation, sit very close to the shoulder joint. One complication of this surgery is damage to a blood vessel or nerve.
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