The shoulder is a complex joint, so the decision to replace it requires a specialist like James M. Lee, Jr, MD, in Orange, New Jersey. For most patients, Dr. Lee will try nonsurgical options to treat shoulder injuries, but if the pain begins to affect the quality of life or if the damage to the joint is too extensive to fix any other way, the next step is shoulder replacement surgery.
This surgical procedure involves a full or partial replacement of the components of the joint. The shoulder joint is a ball-and-socket mechanism, meaning there is a bony "ball" on the end of the upper arm bone and a cup or socket that it fits into on the scapula. This design gives the shoulder fluid movement and flexibility. A joint replacement usually involves either the top of the upper arm bone, called the humerus, or both the humerus and glenoid socket.
Dr. Lee will cap the damaged ends with prosthetic pieces that work as the joint. The design of the artificial replacement is similar to your natural ball-and-socket joint that makes up your shoulder, so you will maintain the same range of motion after surgery. Using medical cement or a material that promotes bone growth to hold the pieces in place, the new prosthetic joint completely replaces the damaged one.
It's up to Dr. Lee to decide if a joint replacement is the right treatment option for each patient. Some of the leading causes for this surgical procedure include:
These are all progressive problems that damage the joint components. For example, osteoarthritis is simply due to wear and tear on the joint and the supportive tissue that protects the bone structures. Post-traumatic arthritis, on the other hand, is damage that follows a serious shoulder injury over time, eventually limiting the joint's function.
Traumatic injury may also lead to a shoulder joint replacement such as a severe fracture of the upper arm. Sometimes Dr. Lee performs shoulder replacement surgery when a previous attempt at joint replacement fails.
Recovery time depends on a number of factors including how extensive the injury to the joint was prior to surgery and the patient's overall health. Immediately after the procedure, Dr. Lee may order a compression sleeve for his patient. This ensures that blood circulates in the arm to prevent clots. Patients can expect to spend a day or two in the hospital just in case there are complications. The shoulder will likely remain immobile except during physical therapy for several weeks after the surgery.