Do You Need a Total Shoulder Replacement?

Do You Need a Total Shoulder Replacement?

The pain in your shoulder has become unbearable, and no therapeutic or medical treatments are working. Maybe it’s time to consider a total shoulder replacement.

If you have exhausted all other options to alleviate pain in your shoulder, your doctor may suggest total shoulder replacement. This comprehensive surgery is an effective way to relieve pain caused by rotator cuff tears, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and avascular necrosis.

There are three bones in your shoulder: your upper arm bone, shoulder blade and collarbone. When working properly, these bones are lubricated by fluid, cushioned by cartilage, and held together by muscles and tendons that let the bones glide easily against each other. Inflammation, worn cartilage, damaged bones and tears in muscles or tendons are common causes of shoulder pain.

When do you know it’s time to consider replacement surgery?

“A total shoulder replacement should be considered when non-operative treatment measures have failed, the pain is waking up the patient at night and it is difficult to participate in normal activities of daily living,” said George. F. “Rick” Hatch, III, MD, associate professor of clinical orthopaedic surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and an orthopaedic surgeon at Keck Medicine of USC.

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If you have bone-on-bone osteoarthritis or rotator cuff tendons that are still intact, you might be a good candidate for total shoulder replacement surgery.

Common symptoms that signal the need for a shoulder replacement

Other signals that shoulder replacement might be an option for you include:

  • The inability to get dressed on your own
  • Moderate-to-severe pain while resting
  • Loss of motion and weakness in your shoulder
  • Continued pain even after taking anti-inflammatory medications or cortisone injections

What happens during a shoulder replacement procedure?

During a total shoulder replacement, your doctor will remove damaged tissue and bone surfaces and replace them a plastic socket and metal ball that is attached to a stem. In most cases, the socket is implanted and secured with cement.

Healing after a shoulder replacement

“Following a total shoulder replacement, a patient is in a sling for approximately five weeks,” Dr. Hatch said. “During this time they are in physical therapy to work on range of motion and strengthening. They transition to a home therapy program at approximately 10 weeks after the procedure to strengthen the shoulder and regain motion. By approximately eight months after the procedure, most patients have regained a very good level of function.”

By Heidi Tyline King

Considering surgery? Consult with the specialists at the USC Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Keck Medicine of USC. To learn more about USC Orthopaedic Surgery, visit To schedule an appointment, call (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or visit