Shoulder Replacement FAQs

  1. How will I know if I need a shoulder replaced?  
  2. What does a total shoulder replacement implant consist of?  
  3. What does shoulder replacement surgery entail? I'm worried about anesthesia. What do I need to know?  
  4. How long is recuperation and rehabilitation after shoulder replacement surgery?  
  5. Will I have restored range of motion after my surgery?  
  6. Why do I need a dental clearance before surgery?  
  7. What happens to the shoulder to cause it to become arthritic and painful?  
  8. If I have arthritis in one shoulder, will I develop arthritis in the other shoulder?  
  9. How soon will I be able to drive after surgery?  
  10. Will I be able to play basketball or golf after shoulder replacement surgery?  
  11. Will I still be able to bowl after shoulder replacement surgery?  
  12. How do I know if I am a candidate for a partial shoulder replacement?  
  13. Will I be aware of the implant in my shoulder?
  14. How long will the shoulder implant last?  
  15. Are people who have a shoulder replaced usually older?  
  16. Will I be able to go through the metal detector at airports?  
  17. What happens if I get an infection in my new shoulder?  
  18. I have heard that the device can loosen and that I will have to have another surgery to fix it. Is this true?  
  19. Can I have an MRI if I have had a joint replaced?

1. How will I know if I need a shoulder replaced?
Often the first clues are pain, limited range of motion in the arm and loss of strength. The arthritic process that renders the shoulder weak and painful occurs over time and may have been started with the wearing down of cartilage that covers bone surfaces, a tear in the rotator cuff (a tendon surrounding the shoulder joint) or necrosis (dead tissue) in bone from a loss in blood supply to bone. These situations, often occurring decades in the past, may have resulted from a work-related event, contact or other sports, an automobile accident or from rheumatoid arthritis.
 
2. What does a total shoulder replacement implant consist of?
A shoulder replacement implant consists of three parts:

  • A new socket (glenoid) that is implanted within the shoulder blade (scapula)
  • A new "ball" to replace the head of the top of the arm bone (humerus)
  • A stem that secures the ball within the arm bone

These materials are comprised of titanium or chrome-cobalt stainless steel and polyethylene plastic.

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3. What does shoulder replacement surgery entail?
Having a shoulder replaced is a major surgical procedure performed in the operating room. During this procedure, your surgeon removes damaged bone and cartilage, resurfaces the socket within your shoulder blade and replaces the ball or head of the humerus at the top of your arm bone. Virginia Mason has one of the best anesthesia programs in the country and we specialize in regional anesthesia. You will be well cared for during your operation by your anesthesiologist.

4. How long is recuperation and rehabilitation after shoulder replacement surgery?
Your recuperation and rehabilitation begins while you are still in the hospital and often on the same day as your surgery.

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5. Will I have restored range of motion after my surgery?
After surgery and rehabilitation, you will have much more range of motion than what you had prior to your surgery. How much range of motion you achieve will depend upon your own unique circumstances and anatomy. Most patients are quite satisfied with the painless restored motion they find they have following their surgery and rehabilitation.

6. Why do I need a dental clearance before surgery?
All patients having joint replacement surgery, as well as patients having heart valve replacement surgery, must have clearance from their dentists showing that there is no infection (such as an abscessed tooth) in the mouth. The reason is that infection in one part of the body can travel to the new joint or valve and cause infection in these newly replaced parts.

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7. What happens to the shoulder to cause it to become arthritic and painful?
The shoulder joint allows more range of motion than any other joint in the body. The cartilage that covers bone surfaces in the joint can begin to wear down, causing stiffness and pain. Some medical conditions — inflammation or rheumatoid arthritis — also can cause this type of degeneration. Direct injury to the shoulder joint from contact sports, an accident or a fall can destabilize the joint and cause uneven wear, eventually leading to arthritis.

8. If I have arthritis in one shoulder, will I develop arthritis in the other shoulder?
This is usually not the case, but can happen. 

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9. How soon will I be able to drive after surgery?
You will be able to drive approximately three to six weeks after your surgery.

10. Will I be able to play basketball or golf after shoulder replacement surgery?
Yes. You will be able to play basketball and golf at the end of your rehabilitation time, or about 12 weeks after surgery. But you will be advised to go slowly, gradually increasing your time doing these activities. 

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11. Will I still be able to bowl after shoulder replacement surgery?
Some patient's do continue to bowl. We advise caution to preserve the joint since it is artificial.

12. How do I know if I am a candidate for a partial shoulder replacement?
Patients that are younger and require joint durability, such as construction workers or anyone doing physical labor, may have early failure of the polyethylene socket and would be better candidates for partial shoulder replacement. Athletes also fall into this category.

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13. Will I be aware of the implant in my shoulder?
Usually not.

14. How long will the shoulder implant last?
The answer depends on several factors, such as your age, physical condition and activity level. Most people who have a shoulder replaced are older and have fewer physical demands. Because these devices are made with stronger materials and provide a secure fit, a shoulder replacement is expected to last the remainder of a patient's life. 

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15. Are people who have a shoulder replaced usually older?
Most patients are middle age or older. But the shoulder joint can degenerate from a number of factors that have nothing to do with age. Athletes in middle age who have participated in contact sports have had shoulders replaced. A traumatic injury from an accident or fall also may require that the shoulder be replaced. Rheumatoid arthritis at any age can affect the shoulder and cause degeneration.

16. Will I be able to go through the metal detector at airports?
Yes. You will be able to go through a metal detector. Some metal detectors are more sensitive than others and you may set off the alarm. We give all joint replacement patients a card to carry in a wallet or purse to show to security at the airport.

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17. What happens if I get an infection in my new shoulder?
We may have to remove it and treat you with antibiotics for six weeks to cure the infection prior to re-implanting new sterile components. Infections are unusual.

18. I have heard that the device can loosen and that I will have to have another surgery to fix it. Is this true?
Over a long period of time, perhaps. We have many options for what is called "revision" surgery, and implants are lasting longer now due to improved materials and geometry.

19. Can I have an MRI if I have had a joint replaced?
Yes.

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