How Does Shoulder Arthroplasty Work?
Shoulder arthroplasty is a surgical procedure that repairs and replaces a damaged shoulder joint. This article will help you better understand the procedure and its purpose.
What is shoulder arthroplasty?
A variety of conditions can contribute to a damaged shoulder joint. The most common causes include inflammation due to arthritis or an acute injury.
Shoulder joints are usually damaged by a wearing away of the protective cartilage that cushions the joint. Without cartilage, the bones of the shoulder’s ball and socket will rub painfully together, preventing normal functioning of the joint.
The ball of the shoulder joint is otherwise known as the humeral head, or the top of the upper arm bone. The socket is known as the glenoid cavity, which connects the humeral head into the shoulder. Shoulder arthroplasty is recommended when the cartilage begins to degenerate between the ball and socket of the shoulder joint.
Otherwise known as a shoulder replacement, shoulder arthroplasty is an innovative surgery that replaces the damaged joint to relieve pain and restore mobility. During the procedure, the humeral head is replaced with a rounded metal piece, and the shoulder socket is replaced with a plastic cap.
These replacements eliminate the bone-on-bone friction that arthritis creates. Ultimately, the procedure aims to minimize shoulder pain and restore the joint’s normal functioning.
Surgery, however, is not typically considered unless pain and joint deterioration are persistent. More conservative treatment options include rest, anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy exercises, and cortisone injections.
What conditions can shoulder arthroplasty treat?
The shoulder joint is usually damaged from arthritis-related inflammation and cartilage degeneration. Shoulder arthroplasty might be recommended as a treatment for the following conditions:
- Osteoarthritis: Wear-and-tear can cause the cartilage in the shoulder joint to deteriorate. Athletes or active people who frequently use their shoulder are more likely to develop osteoarthritis. Cartilage can also be damaged in an acute injury like a shoulder fracture or a rotator cuff tear.
- Inflammatory arthritis: There are several autoimmune conditions that lead to chronic inflammation, which can destroy the shoulder joint. Rheumatoid arthritis is one of the most common.
To determine whether shoulder arthroplasty might be an option for you, an orthopedic specialist will physically examine your shoulder and range of motion. They will also likely order X-rays (or occasionally an MRI) to examine the integrity of the joint before recommending surgery.
Alternative Procedure: Reverse total shoulder
Sometimes, the tendons and ligaments surrounding the shoulder joint are also damaged. Since the shoulder normally relies on these tendons and ligaments to hold the joint in place, damage to them can lead to shoulder instability.
In these cases, the metal and plastic replacement parts are switched. The metal ball is placed in the socket, and the plastic cap is placed on the humeral head. This procedure is called reverse total shoulder replacement and provides more stability to the shoulder joint since it does not require the damaged tendons for stability. After replacement, the deltoid muscle is used to lift the arm instead of the damaged or torn rotator cuff.
Reverse shoulder replacement is recommended for those with rotator cuff tears or severe damage to the tendons that support the shoulder. This procedure alleviates arthritis pain but still offers stability in the shoulder joint.
For those who have not yet developed arthritis, shoulder arthroscopy may be recommended. Since the shoulder is composed of a complex arrangement of bone, tissue, muscle, ligaments, and tendons, sometimes these can be strained, leading to a variety of painful conditions. If left untreated, these conditions can sometimes lead to arthritis, which could then be treated with shoulder arthroplasty.
What does recovery look like for shoulder arthroplasty?
Most people recover within the first six to eight weeks following surgery. After several months, most people experience little pain and can resume normal activity.
Immediately following the surgery, the shoulder is immobilized in a sling to allow the joint and neighboring tendons to heal. Physical therapy will begin right away, as well, to help restore the shoulder’s range of motion and normal functioning.
Shoulder Arthroplasty at Midwest Orthopaedic Consultants
Pain and inflammation from arthritis can be debilitating. At Midwest Orthopaedic Consultants, we offer a range of innovative treatments provided by a team of compassionate orthopedic specialists and surgeons. We know how difficult arthritis pain can be to manage and are ready to get you back to a life without it.
Book an appointment with us today to find out if a shoulder replacement might be right for you.
Only a doctor can tell you if this procedure is right for you. This is for informational purposes and should not be used in lieu of a doctor’s opinion.