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Shoulder Joint Replacement

The most common need for a shoulder replacement is osteoarthritis. Shoulder joint osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease resulting in wearing away of the lubricating cartilage of the shoulder joint. This causes the bones of the shoulder joint to rub together, which produces painful symptoms in the shoulder and upper arm, decreased motion of the shoulder, and pain with reaching, movement, and general use of the affected arm. Sometimes, a crunching noise may be felt or heard when moving the shoulder. Symptoms of arthritis tend to worsen as the degeneration progresses. A total shoulder replacement is a treatment option for patients with end stage osteoarthritis of the shoulder joint, and pain affecting their activities of daily living and quality of life.

Typically, a total shoulder replacement is indicated after exhausting conservative treatment options that can include steroid injections, viscosupplementation “gel” injections, anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy, and/or activity modification.

A total shoulder replacement is a surgical procedure in which the shoulder joint is replaced by an artificial implant. This consists of replacing both the ball and socket of the natural shoulder. A total shoulder replacement helps to relieve pain and improve shoulder function. Shoulder motion should also improve post-operatively, but amount of motion regained is variable and dependent on how significant the range of motion limitations were pre-operatively.

Some patients develop a certain pattern of osteoarthritis in the shoulder that results from having a chronic rotator cuff tear. The rotator cuff is a cluster of four small muscles that help stabilize the shoulder joint and hold the ball of the shoulder in proper position. Patients that have shoulder osteoarthritis, in addition to having either a new or old rotator cuff injury, may be a better candidate for a reverse total shoulder replacement to relieve pain and improve function.

While most shoulder replacements are elective procedures, sometimes it is performed on an emergency basis in patients who have sustained a trauma, or a certain types of fractures to the shoulder.

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