The complexity of the shoulder joint allows it to handle relatively heavy loads while maintaining a wide range of motion. However, this ability also makes it prone to injuries. Some conditions can leave the shoulder in a painful and deteriorated condition beyond what the body can heal naturally. For these cases, shoulder replacement surgery can be useful to restore the joint’s resilience and mobility. Learn about what you can expect from shoulder replacement, so that you can prepare well for the procedure.
What Is Shoulder Replacement Surgery?
Shoulder replacement surgery involves the installation of prosthetic materials in the shoulder joint to replicate the functionality of the ball-and-socket joint in the shoulder. The socket part comes from the shoulder blade and collarbone, while the ball part is from the top of the humerus. Damage due to wear and tear and conditions like osteoarthritis can compromise the joint, so surgeons replace the joint with a metal ball and a polymer-based socket to provide mechanical support and restore function.
The main objective of shoulder replacement is to alleviate pain when more conservative methods have failed to work. Shoulder replacement surgery also aims to restore range of motion, flexibility, and strength, allowing the person to lift their arm and perform overhead actions with ease.
Preparations for the Surgery
Since the recovery period can be extensive, it’s essential to use the days before surgery to prepare. You need to find someone who can assist you with everyday activities for the first few days after the operation. They should also be able to help you complete some of the exercises you’ll do during rehabilitation.
Record your medical history, including any allergies or existing illnesses, so that the medical team can adequately prepare for your surgery. Your doctor will verify this to ensure that you’re cleared for surgery.
They might require you to stop taking certain medicines, such as anti-inflammatory drugs, around a week before surgery. They will also run you through several physical exams and blood tests 1 to 2 weeks before the operation.
Expect to meet at least once with your surgeon and your anesthesiologist. They’ll discuss with you the type of anesthesia you’ll need for your shoulder replacement surgery. Typically, you will receive general anesthesia to keep you unconscious and a regional anesthetic to block pain.
The night before your surgery, you should get restful sleep. Don’t drink or eat anything after midnight to reduce the risk of complications during the operation.
Surgery and Postoperative Hospital Stay
The actual procedure usually takes about 2 to 3 hours to complete. In most cases, you should be unconscious during the operation. After the surgery, medical staff will monitor you closely as your anesthesia begins to wear off.
Upon waking up, you’ll notice that your shoulder will have heavy dressings and a drain to remove fluid that may build up. You may undergo an X-ray to verify that the artificial implants are successfully inserted into your shoulder. An IV line will be used to supply you with hydration, antibiotics, and pain medication.
Given the invasiveness of shoulder surgery, expect to feel significant pain and discomfort as the anesthesia wears off. You may have a special pump that allows your nurse to customize the amount of pain medication you receive based on your surgeon’s recommendation.
After getting clearance from your doctor, start to move around while hospitalized. Physical activity can help accelerate healing and enables you to get used to your new joint. Start with movements of your fingers and wrist, followed by gentle shoulder motions. However, stop once you feel the pain increasing. Too much activity can injure you and delay your recovery.
Returning Home After Shoulder Replacement
You will learn exercises during your hospital stay that you should continue once you get home. Aside from pain medication, you can use cold therapy to reduce pain and swelling. Consult with your doctor on how to care for the wound, and be wary of signs of infection, which include increased inflammation, fever, warmth, and discharge.
When your stitches are eventually removed, you may start with your physical therapy program. Over several weeks, you’ll practice a series of movements that gradually increase in difficulty. These exercises will fortify the muscles in your joint and are necessary for a proper recovery. You’ll do these movements even at home.
It may take months before you can return to your regular activities, and there will be times when progress seems slow. However, you will eventually achieve pain relief and optimal benefits of the surgery. A healthy shoulder implant should function adequately for many years.
Shoulder Replacement Surgery in New Jersey
If you want to know if shoulder replacement surgery is right for you, get in touch with an orthopedic surgeon. The experts at Orthopedic Associates of West Jersey provide individualized care for work and sports related injuries as well as chronic conditions. We give our patients comprehensive care and treatment methods for optimal pain relief and functionality.
For inquiries or to make an appointment, call us at (973) 989-0888 or secure an appointment using our online form.