When Is Total Shoulder Replacement Surgery Needed?

According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, close to 53,000 people undergo shoulder replacement surgery every year. Total shoulder replacement surgery involves replacing the damaged parts with artificial prosthesis.

When Is A Total Shoulder Replacement Surgery Needed?

These are some of the common conditions that necessitate total shoulder replacement surgery.

Osteoarthritis: Also termed a degenerative bone disease, osteoarthritis is common in older people above 50 years of age. With advancing age, there is wearing of the cartilage that serves to cushion the bones in the shoulder joint. Without the cushioning, the bones rub against each other and become stiff and inflamed. Because the condition gets progressively worse, other treatments including medications are ineffective.

Rotator Cuff Tear: The rotator cuff is comprised of four muscles that help the shoulder achieve complete range of motion. These muscles are supported by tendons and the bursa. A rotator cuff tear occurs when the tendons and tissue get inflamed and torn. The severity of the symptoms can depend on the extent of the tear and the number of tendons involved. In a complete tear, the tendons become completely detached from the muscle tissue affecting shoulder movement and causing severe pain. Over time, the tear can destroy the cartilage leading to a condition called rotator cuff arthropathy. If this point is reached, it’s advised the injured person sees a rotator cuff specialist incase immediate action or surgery is needed.

Rheumatoid Arthritis: Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition where the body’s defense system mistakenly attacks and destroys the joints including the shoulder joint. In this condition, there is chronic inflammation of the joint and thickening of the synovial membrane that cushions the joint.

Osteonecrosis: Also called avascular necrosis, the condition results when the shoulder bones do not get the required blood supply. Without the nutrients and oxygen from the blood, the cells of the shoulder bones die leading to arthritis. Some conditions that could cause osteonecrosis include deep sea diving, alcohol abuse, certain blood disorders and severe fractures.

Fractures: Motor vehicle accidents and falls can result in complete shattering of the shoulder bones. Fractures are the most common reasons why people require total shoulder replacement surgeries. Fractures in elderly people who already have either osteoporosis or osteoarthritis result in severe damage to the shoulder joint, necessitating replacement surgery.

Sometimes the trauma of falls and shoulder injuries can be latent and become obvious years later. The fractured bones and torn cartilages slowly destroy the shoulder cartilage over a period of time.

What Does A Replacement Surgery Involve?

The shoulder joint is made up of a ball and socket type of arrangement in which the humerus or the upper arm bone is the ball, while the glenoid fossa or the end of the shoulder blade is the socket. In total shoulder replacement surgery, a metal ball is used to replace the humeral head or the “ball” of the shoulder joint. The “socket” or the glenoid is replaced with a plastic surface.

The surgery can take up to two hours to perform under regional or general anesthesia. Post-surgery rehabilitation exercises are usually prescribed to aid in faster recovery.

If you or anyone you know is suffering from these types of symptoms, it’s highly suggested that they see a shoulder specialist as soon as possible, in case they need total shoulder replacement surgery!

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