Robert Graham, MD, is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon serving the communities of Austin, Texas.
Dr. Graham provides total shoulder replacement surgeries using the most advanced techniques to restore your joint, relieve pain, and enhance your quality of life.
WHAT IS TOTAL SHOULDER REPLACEMENT?
Total shoulder replacement, also called shoulder arthroplasty, is a surgical procedure to replace the damaged ball and socket joint in your shoulder. The goal is to restore your range of motion, relieve your shoulder pain, and help you get back to your regular activities.
Your shoulder is a complex ball and socket joint consisting of the humeral head (the ball at the top of your upper arm bone), the clavicle (collarbone), and the scapula (shoulder blade).
The ball of your upper arm bone fits into the glenoid (socket) in your shoulder blade. The shoulder joint is held in place by your rotator cuff (a network of muscles and tendons), the glenohumeral ligaments, and muscles including the deltoid, bicep, trapezius, and pectoralis major.
During total shoulder replacement, Dr. Graham replaces your humeral head and the glenoid with artificial components, which are also called prostheses.
WHY WOULD I NEED A SHOULDER REPLACEMENT SURGERY?
If you have painful, limited arm and shoulder movement that gets in the way of your ability to perform everyday tasks comfortably or wakes you up at night, your surgeon provides consultation and an exam to determine if a shoulder replacement is recommended.
Some of the diseases and injuries that can lead to shoulder replacement surgery include:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Post-traumatic arthritis
- Rotator cuff tear arthropathy
- Avascular necrosis (osteonecrosis)
- Severe fractures
Your surgeon may suggest shoulder replacement surgery if medication, injections, or physical therapy aren’t relieving your pain or improving your mobility.
Your surgeon may also propose shoulder replacement if you have suffered from shoulder fractures or if you have a severely torn rotator cuff.
WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT DURING A TOTAL SHOULDER REPLACEMENT?
During shoulder replacements, Dr. Graham replaces the ball (humeral head) of the shoulder joint with an implant that includes a stem with a smooth, rounded metal head.
They also replace the socket (glenoid) with a smooth, round plastic cup that fits the rounded metal head. Total shoulder replacement recreates the natural ball and socket anatomy of your shoulder joint.
HOW SHOULD I PREPARE FOR TOTAL SHOULDER REPLACEMENT?
You have a consultation and medical evaluation before your shoulder arthroplasty surgery. Dr. Graham gives you personalized preparation instructions. But in general, you should:
- Tell your surgeon about all medications, vitamins, and supplements you take
- Stop taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and most arthritis drugs two weeks before your surgery
- Talk to your surgeon about not taking blood thinners before your surgery
- Set up your home for easy use after surgery
- Arrange for someone to help you at home, at least for the first couple of days after surgery
You will need to fast for at least eight hours before your surgery. Wear loose-fitting clothing and a button-front shirt. You’ll have limited use of your arm after surgery, and these types of clothing are easier to put on.
WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT DURING RECOVERY?
Your surgeon gives you customized instructions on how to take care of your shoulder for a smooth recovery.
For example, typical advice and precautions after shoulder arthroplasty include:
- Take prescribed medication as directed
- Wear the sling as recommended
- Do not use your surgical arm to push yourself up in bed or from a chair
- Do not use your surgical arm to pull anything to you
- Follow your program of home exercises but don’t overdo it
- Don’t participate in sports or lift any heavy objects for at least twelve weeks
- Get home support if you need it
- Use caution to avoid falls
You will have some temporary restrictions after shoulder replacement. For example, you wear a sling for several weeks and won’t be able to lift your arm above your head. You may not operate a car for two to four weeks after your shoulder replacement surgery.
Your total recovery time is approximately four to six months, and physical therapy is required to gain range of motion with the new joint. Make sure to attend your follow-up appointments and follow your doctor’s advice for a rapid recovery.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT TOTAL SHOULDER REPLACEMENT
Is total shoulder replacement common?
Around 53,000 people have shoulder arthroplasty every year.
How do I know if I need a total shoulder replacement surgery?
Dr. Graham provides comprehensive exams, including X-rays and other imaging studies to diagnose the cause of shoulder pain. He will let you know if a total shoulder replacement is your best option to restore your shoulder function and relieve your pain.
What are the alternatives to shoulder replacement?
Total shoulder replacement surgery is rarely a first-line approach to managing shoulder pain and reduced mobility. In most cases, your shoulder specialist tries other shoulder treatments such as medication, physical therapy, steroid injections, or viscosupplementation.
What are the risks and complications of a shoulder replacement?
All surgeries, including shoulder replacements, include some risks, such as infection and nerve injury. Joint replacement procedures also include a minor risk of prosthesis problems.
However, rest assured that Dr. Graham has decades of experience and uses the most up-to-date surgical techniques and equipment available to minimize any patient risks.
How long does it take to recover from a total shoulder replacement?
Every patient recovers at their own pace, but most recover fully within four to six months. Following Dr. Graham’s instructions and attending your physical therapy and follow-up appointments can help you stay on the right track.