When non-surgical treatments fail to adequately treat shoulder arthritis, an orthopedist may recommend shoulder replacement surgery. During surgery, the damaged surfaces of the shoulder joint are removed and replaced with prosthetic parts typically made of durable plastic or metal.
More than 53,000 people undergo shoulder replacement surgeries, or shoulder arthroplasties, each year in the United States.1
The majority of patients who have these surgeries recover and experience:
- Decreased shoulder pain
- Improved shoulder function, including increased range of motion
An orthopedic surgeon can determine if a patient is a candidate for shoulder replacement surgery and if so, what type of shoulder replacement surgery would be most appropriate.
Shoulder Replacement and Resufacing Options
Below are descriptions of different types of shoulder joint replacement and resurfacing surgeries.
Total shoulder replacement (traditional shoulder arthroplasty)
Sometimes called traditional shoulder replacement or traditional shoulder arthroplasty, this surgery replaces the original ball-and-socket surfaces of the shoulder with similarly shaped prosthetics. Total shoulder replacement is considered the most reliable surgical option for relieving debilitating shoulder arthritis, but it is not appropriate for people who want to remain very active or have damaged rotator cuff muscles.
Reverse shoulder replacement (reverse total shoulder arthroplasty)
During reverse shoulder replacement the surgeon switches, or reverses, the positions of the shoulder joint's ball and socket. The ball at the top of the humerus (upper arm bone) is replaced with a socket-shaped prosthetic, while the shoulder's natural socket is fitted with a prosthetic ball. This surgery is an option for people whose damaged rotator cuffs make them ineligible for traditional shoulder replacement. It changes the center of rotation of the joint, enabling other muscles to compensate for a lack of rotator cuff function.
Read more about Choosing Reverse Shoulder Replacement
Partial shoulder replacement (stemmed hemiarthroplasty)
During a partial shoulder replacement, or shoulder hemiarthroplasty, the arm's humeral head is removed and replaced with a prosthetic ball but the natural socket, or glenoid bone, is kept.
- Ream and run. During this version of a partial shoulder replacement surgery, the natural socket is kept; however, the surgeon might use special tools to smooth and reshape this socket to facilitate better shoulder joint movement. This process is called a hemiarthroplasty with non-prosthetic glenoid arthroplasty or, more informally, "ream and run."
Shoulder Resurfacing (resurfacing hemiarthroplasty)
During this surgery the damaged humeral head is fitted with a smooth rounded cap to facilitate better joint movement. Unlike a stemmed hemiarthroplasty, shoulder resurfacing does not require the complete removal of the natural humeral head nor the insertion of a prosthetic humeral stem.
What type of surgery a doctor recommends depends on the problem being corrected as well as other factors such as the patient's age, health and activity level.
While shoulder replacement surgery can relieve shoulder pain and increase shoulder function in the long term, it is a major surgery that requires several months of recovery and physical therapy.
Most patients exhaust non-surgical treatments before considering shoulder replacement surgery.