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What is a partial shoulder replacement?

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A partial shoulder replacement, or shoulder hemiarthroplasty, involves removing and replacing damaged parts of the top of the humerus, states OrthoVirginia Commonwealth Orthopaedics. Depending on the joint's condition, doctors may choose to replace the humeral head and stem with a metal implant, or replace only the surface of the head of the humerus.

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Replacing only the surface of the head of the humerus, termed resurfacing hemiarthroplasty, involves the least amount of bone removal and is less invasive than a stemmed hemiarthroplasty, where both the head and stem of the humerus are removed and replaced with an implant, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Stemmed hemiarthroplasty is performed on patients with more extensive damage to the humerus, resulting from conditions such as arthritis, a fractured humeral head or rotator cuff tears.

Partial shoulder replacements differ from full shoulder replacements in that they do not seek to replace the glenoid socket, explains Sutter Health. Less bone is removed, and smaller incisions are used than would be in a full shoulder replacement.

Patients undergoing shoulder hemiarthroplasty typically spend one to two nights in the hospital and work with a physical therapist before returning to their home, or in some cases moving briefly to a rehabilitation facility. They usually wear a sling for the first weeks after surgery, and have a 6- to 8-inch incision along with some bruising and swelling from the operation, states Rose Medical Center.

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