Shoulder Replacement Basics


I have performed nearly 2,000 shoulder replacements since I started practice in 2004. Initially, most of these were performed at a hospital with most patients spending 1-2 nights after the procedure. Things have changed a lot. Most patients now go home the same day, and many of these procedures are done at a surgery center.

Shoulder replacement surgery takes me about an hour to perform and is done under light general anesthesia with a pre-operative nerve block that usually lasts 2-3 days. Most of my patients only take some type of pain pill for a couple of days. You wake up in a sling with a small bandage that covers the front of your shoulder. I let people start showering the next day, and you can use your hand for some basic, light functions such as typing, holding a cell phone, and brushing your teeth. A sling is used for most of the day for 4-6 weeks. Usually, patients sleep with the sling on for a few weeks and can drive after 4-6 weeks.

Initially, I have you do some gentle elbow, wrist, and finger motions for the first month. Then I instruct you how to do some basic home exercises such as wall-walks and stretches. Physical therapy is sometimes started at the 2-3 month point. Most people I release to full activities after about 3 months. People can find some type of improvement in their range of motion and strength for up to a year.

Routine post-operative follow-up in my office is usually at the 2-week, 6-week, and 3-month point. If everything looks good then follow-up is usually every 1-2 years after that.

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