Total shoulder replacements, reverse shoulder replacements, and partial shoulder replacements (hemiarthroplasties) are all major surgeries that require advanced planning.

Read more: Types of Shoulder Replacement Surgeries

Before surgery, a doctor will ask a patient to make several home and medical preparations to help ensure a successful surgery and recovery.

Read about Shoulder Osteoarthritis, which may require surgery when severe


Home Preparations for Shoulder Replacement Recovery

By making some simple changes around the house, a patient can avoid having to raise the affected arm(s) or carry heavy objects, thereby minimizing the chance of injury while recovering from shoulder replacement surgery.

Some changes to consider making include:

  • Plan for a spouse, friend, or other caregiver to prepare meals and help around the house.
  • Stock up on pre-made meals, canned food, and toiletry items to avoid having to run errands post-surgery.
  • Arrange for transportation, as most patients cannot drive for the first 4 to 6 weeks after surgery.
  • Move commonly used foods, utensils, pots and pans, and appliances to counter height to avoid reaching.
  • Consider dividing up foods and drinks into smaller containers to avoid heavy lifting. For example, people who normally buy a half-gallon of milk may consider buying two separate quarts of milk.
  • Have cold packs to help alleviate swelling and heating pads to warm up the joint.

    See Applying Heat vs. Cold to an Arthritic Joint

  • Avoid trips and falls by taking away or moving items such as area rugs or electrical cords. A fall can jeopardize a shoulder implant.
  • Have sponges or washcloths for sponge baths; some patients are advised not to shower for a week after surgery. (A patient may want to take a long shower and wash his or her hair the day of surgery, since washing hair is difficult in the weeks following surgery.)

This list is not exhaustive, and patients may identify other ways to tailor their homes to accommodate specific needs. By making preparations to avoid activities that could lead to injuries or impede healing, patients can help ensure a safe and productive rehabilitation.

Some patients - for example, patients who live alone - may not be able to arrange for post-surgical meals, housework, and transportation. In these cases the patient may be discharged from the hospital and admitted to a rehabilitation center. These centers provide nursing care and physical therapy until the patient can safely live alone at home.

Common Medical Preparations

Medical preparations help reduce the risk of complications during and after surgery. Below is a list of commonly requested or required medical preparations for patients scheduled to undergo major surgery that requires general anesthesia.

  • The patient should report any medications he or she takes, including homeopathic medications and nutritional supplements, and make sure they are safe to take before and after surgery.
  • Two weeks before surgery, the patient may be asked to stop taking certain medications, such as:
    • Aspirin, Non-steroidal inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Aleve or Advil, and other medications that make it more difficult for blood to clot
    • Steroids and other medications that suppress the immune system and therefore may increase the chance of post-surgical infection
  • The patient may also be encouraged to eliminate or cut down on the use of tobacco products, including cigarettes. Nicotine impedes soft tissue and bone healing and increases the risk of post-surgical deep vein thrombosis, a potentially deadly blood clot in a deep vein.
  • If the patient has diabetes, heart disease, or other medical condition, he or she may need to consult a specialist to be approved for surgery.
  • The patient should report consumption of more than 1 or 2 alcoholic drinks per day, as heavy alcohol use influences the effects of anesthesia.
  • Patients who get sick (cold, flu, fever, herpes breakout, etc.) in the days preceding a surgery should report it to their doctors.

A surgeon and hospital should clearly communicate any required medical preparations well before the time of surgery.

See Arthritis Treatment Specialists

Patients who have specific questions or concerns regarding home and medical preparations should contact their surgeons' offices.

Dr. C. Benjamin Ma is an orthopedic surgeon and the Vice Chairman for Adult Clinical Operations in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center. Dr. Ma has been practicing medicine for more than 15 years, specializing in sports medicine and knee and shoulder surgery.