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Shoulder Joint Replacement

Alternative names: Hemiarthroplasty, Total Shoulder Replacement

What is a shoulder joint replacement?

In this surgical procedure, the shoulder joint is replaced with artificial parts. The type of surgery done will depend on the extent and type of injury. In some cases the surgeon may replace just the ball of the shoulder joint (the humeral head). This type of surgery is called a hemiarthroplasty. An surgeon may recommend a total shoulder replacement where the entire ball and cap (glenoid) are replaced.

Why would a doctor recommend shoulder joint replacement?

Shoulder joint replacement may be recommended if you have shoulder arthritis. It may also be needed if you have severe trauma, such as an injury to the shoulder, which requires reconstruction of the shoulder.

What does shoulder joint replacement surgery involve?

Shoulder joint replacement surgery generally requires a hospital stay of typically one to three days. It may be longer depending on the type of surgery and the health of the patient. On the day of the surgery the patient should have nothing to eat or drink.

In most cases, a general anesthesia is used for shoulder joint replacement. The surgeon will make an incision on the front of the shoulder about 3 to 4 inches long. The actual surgery may take 2 to 3 hours but there is time required before surgery for pre-operative procedures and recovery time after the surgery.

How long is the recovery after shoulder replacement surgery?

The physician will prescribe a rehabilitation program that meets your needs. In some cases this will begin the day of the surgery, when a physical therapist will slowly move the shoulder and arm to help regain mobility. The program will generally include both home exercises, as well as physician check-ups and physical therapy.

If the physical therapy and proper rehabilitation program are followed, patients may return to normal activity in about two to three months.

Graphic: Shoulder Replacement Guidebook Download the Shoulder Replacement Guidebook (PDF)

This is an example of the guidebook given to patients who come to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, NH. Patients at other Dartmouth-Hitchcock facilities will experience a similar journey during their shoulder replacement surgery.

The Shoulder Replacement Guidebook is divided into four sections to make it easy for you to find the information you need, no matter which stage of the process you are in. Many of these subjects will also be discussed at your pre-operative visit. Please bring this guidebook with you to your appointments and to the hospital on the day of your surgery to use as a reference tool and to make additional notes. Download the Shoulder Replacement Guidebook (PDF).

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