Total Shoulder Replacement Surgery

During shoulder replacement surgery, all or part of your problem shoulder is replaced with an artificial joint, called a prosthesis. The prosthesis replaces the rough, worn parts of your shoulder with smooth metal and plastic parts. You have many options for different prostheses. Your surgeon will discuss the best one for your condition. Common causes of shoulder joint replacement include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and various traumas. 

Front view of shoulder joint with total shoulder replacement.

Before your surgery

You will most likely arrive at the hospital on the morning of the surgery. Tell your healthcare provider about any medicines you take, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and supplements.

Be sure to follow all of your healthcare provider's instructions on preparing for surgery:

  • Follow any directions you are given for taking medicines or for not eating or drinking before surgery.

  • At the hospital, your temperature, pulse, breathing, and blood pressure will be checked.

  • An IV (intravenous) line will be started to provide fluids and medicines needed during surgery.

The surgical procedure

When the surgical team is ready, you’ll be taken to the operating room. There you’ll be given anesthesia to help you sleep through surgery. Your surgeon may replace just the ball (partial replacement) or both the ball and the socket (total replacement). An incision about six-inches long is made from your collarbone to your arm. Once the new joint is in place, your surgeon closes the incision with surgical staples or sutures (stitches).

After your surgery

After surgery, you'll be sent to the PACU (postanesthesia care unit). When you are fully awake, you'll be moved to your room. In some cases, you can be sent home after surgery. The nurses will give you medicines to ease your pain. Soon, healthcare providers will help you get up and moving. You may also have physical therapy after surgery.

You may need to wear an arm sling for a few weeks. You will likely have a specific rehabilitation or physical therapy plan to get the best healing after surgery. 

When to call your healthcare provider

Once at home, call your healthcare provider if you have any of the symptoms below:

  • An increase in pain not relieved by your pain medicine

  • Unusual redness, heat, or drainage at the incision site

  • Fever over 100.4°F (38°C) or chills