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What is a total shoulder replacement?

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Quick Answer

Total shoulder replacement is a surgical procedure during which the bones of the shoulder joint are replaced with artificial parts, according to MedlinePlus. The head of the humerus is replaced with a metal ball, and the glenoid is replaced with a smooth plastic shell.

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Full Answer

Total shoulder replacement is indicated for people with shoulder joint dysfunction most commonly caused by rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and severe trauma from a shoulder fracture, explains Cleveland Clinic. Before the procedure, the shoulder joint is examined with an X-ray, which typically reveals the presence of bone spurs, joint surface damage and narrowing joint space.

The surgery begins after the administration of a general or regional anesthetic, according to MedlinePlus. The surgeon makes an incision into the shoulder and isolates the joint. The head of the upper arm bone is removed, and a new head is cemented into its place. The shoulder joint socket is smoothed-out, and a new socket is cemented in place of the old one. The incision is closed with sutures and a bandage is placed over the wound.

The procedure takes one to three hours to complete, and patients usually spend one to three days in the hospital, explains MedlinePlus. After discharge from the hospital patients are required to keep their arm in a sling and avoid active movement for one to six weeks.

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