Shoulder Replacement Surgery

Shoulder Replacement Surgery Idaho

Shoulder joint replacement is not as common as knee or hip replacement, but it is just as successful in relieving joint pain.

In the 1950’s, shoulder replacement surgery was first performed to treat severe shoulder fractures. Over the years, however, orthopedic surgeons have found shoulder joint replacement to be effective at treating many other painful conditions of the shoulder, such as different forms of arthritis.

If nonsurgical treatments like medications and activity changes are no longer helpful for relieving pain, you may want to consider shoulder joint replacement surgery. Joint replacement surgery is a safe and effective procedure to relieve pain and help you resume everyday activities.


The humerus (the bone of your upper arm), your scapula (shoulder blade), and your clavicle (collarbone) are the three bones that make up the shoulder. Similar to the hip joint, the shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint. The head of your upper arm bone fits into a shallow socket in your shoulder blade, called the glenoid.

Just like in the hip and knee, the surfaces of the bones are all covered with articular cartilage, which protects the bones and enables them to move easily. A thin, smooth membrane (synovial membrane) covers all remaining surfaces inside the shoulder joint. In a healthy shoulder, the synovial membrane makes a  fluid that lubricates the cartilage and eliminates almost any friction in your shoulder.

These features, combined with the muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder, provide stability, support and allow the shoulder to rotate through a greater range of motion than any other joint in the body.

Common Conditions

Shoulder Replacement IdahoThere are several conditions that can cause shoulder pain and disability,  for which orthopedic surgeons may recommend shoulder joint replacement surgery.

Osteoarthritis (Degenerative Joint Disease)

This is an age-related “wear and tear” type of arthritis and most commonly occurs in people 50 and older. Occasionally, osteoarthritis affects younger people, too. As the cartilage that cushions the bones of the shoulder softens and wears away, the bones rub against one another. When this occurs over time, the shoulder joint becomes stiff and painful.

Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent the development of osteoarthritis. That is why it is one of the most common reasons people have shoulder replacement surgery.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis describes a condition in which the membrane that surrounds the joint becomes inflamed and thickened. The resulting inflammation can damage the cartilage and eventually cause cartilage loss, pain, and stiffness. Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common form of a group of disorders termed “inflammatory arthritis.”

Post-traumatic Arthritis

During a serious injury, fractures of the bones that make up the shoulder or tears of the shoulder tendons or ligaments may damage the articular cartilage over time. This causes shoulder pain and limits shoulder function.

Rotator Cuff Tear Arthropathy

In some cases, patients with a very large, long-standing rotator cuff tear may develop cuff tear arthropathy. This condition occurs when tthe changes in the shoulder joint due to the rotator cuff tear lead to arthritis and destruction of the joint cartilage.

Avascular Necrosis (Osteonecrosis)

This is a painful condition that occurs when the blood supply to the bone is disrupted in some way. Bone cells, like all cells, die without a blood supply. Osteonecrosis may ultimately lead to destruction of the shoulder joint and cause arthritis. Some common causes of Avascular Necrosis include chronic steroid use, deep sea diving, severe fracture of the shoulder, sickle cell disease, and heavy alcohol use.

Severe Fractures

This is another common condition that may necessitate shoulder replacement surgery. If the head of the upper arm bone is shattered, an orthopedic surgeon or doctor may struggle to put the pieces of bone back in place. Furthermore, the blood supply to the bone pieces can be interrupted, which may lead to osteonecrosis. When this happens,  an orthopedic surgeon may recommend a shoulder replacement.

Failed Previous Shoulder Replacement Surgery

Although rare, it is possible for a shoulder replacement to fail—most commonly because the implants becomes loose, wear and tear, infection, and/or dislocation. If and when any of the previous conditions takes place, it may necessitate a second joint replacement surgery—called a revision surgery.

Is Shoulder Joint Replacement for You?

The decision to have shoulder replacement surgery should be an informed decision that you make cooperatively with your family and orthopedic surgeon.

People who benefit from surgery often have:

  • Severe shoulder pain that disrupts or prohibits your everyday activities, like reaching into a cabinet, dressing, going to the bathroom, and washing.
  • Moderate to severe pain while resting. The pain may even be severe enough to prevent a good night’s sleep.
  • Loss of motion and/or weakness in the shoulder.
  • Lack of substantial improvement from other treatments like anti-inflammatory medications, cortisone injections, or physical therapy.