Is a Reverse Total Shoulder Replacement Right for You?

Depending on the degree of damage you may have in your shoulder, reverse total shoulder replacement surgery may be the better option over a standard shoulder replacement.

As your body ages, your shoulder becomes more susceptible to damage from arthritis, an increase in shoulder pain, and a decrease in your range of motion. If surgical treatment is required, you have the option of having either a standard or reverse total shoulder replacement surgery to improve your condition and relieve your pain. In both cases, shoulder replacement surgery should be an option of last resort after all nonsurgical methods—such as physical therapy or steroid injections—to address your chronic shoulder pain have failed. Before you and your healthcare provider make a decision of which type of surgery is best for you, you should understand what each procedure entails and how it will affect you.

Standard Total Shoulder Replacement

In a traditional shoulder replacement, the surgeon replaces the ball at the top of your humerus, which is the bone of your upper arm, with a metallic end. The muscles and bones of your shoulder socket (or your rotator cuff) will be replaced with a plastic implant to act as a replacement cavity for the humerus.

In order for a standard total shoulder replacement to work, there must be minimal damage to your rotator cuff and the bones of the humerus. However, a traditional shoulder replacement does not work in cases of severe arthritic damage; previous damage to the clavicle, humerus, or scapula; or tears to the rotator cuff muscles and ligaments.

Reverse Total Shoulder Replacement

If you have a significant torn rotator cuff that cannot be repaired or severe osteoarthritis and are considering surgery, your best option is a reverse total shoulder replacement. In addition, any history of surgery to repair a fractured humerus or a previous, traditional shoulder replacement surgery are key reasons to undergo a reverse total shoulder replacement.

Unlike a standard total shoulder replacement, a reverse total shoulder replacement switches the positions of the materials typically used in shoulder replacement surgery. The shoulder socket will be replaced with a metallic hemisphere while the ball of the humerus is replaced with a strong plastic and metal head.

Images from the Cleveland Clinic show the comparison between a standard and reverse total shoulder replacement surgery and can help you see how each will impact range of motion and understand how each implant functions.

Benefits of a Reverse Total Shoulder Replacement

A replaced reverse shoulder joint offers relief from the pain caused by your joint bones rubbing together due to calcium deposits, deteriorating cartilage, or even arthritis. Some of the additional common benefits of a reverse total shoulder replacement include increased overhead mobility and muscle and joint strength recovery.

Research has shown that approximately 90% of patients who undergo a reverse total shoulder replacement experience significant improvement in both shoulder pain and function. While possible surgical complications can include infections and bleeding (like any surgery), your recovery is usually very quick. Expect to leave the hospital after surgery within 2 or 3 days and, with the help of physical therapy, be able to take care of yourself without pain in just a few weeks.

How Long Does a Reverse Total Shoulder Replacement Last?

A reverse total shoulder replacement will typically last 10 to 15 years depending upon the amount of previous damage to the shoulder and the degree to which you use your new shoulder. As with all shoulder replacement surgeries, you may still experience some weakness and slight discomfort in your shoulder joint, but you will have wider above-the-head range of motion with a reverse total shoulder replacement than with a traditional total shoulder replacement.

Above all else, remember that you should only consider surgery when all nonsurgical treatments do not work. But once the time has come to consider surgical treatment, call Arkansas Surgical Hospital at 1-877-918-7020 to learn more about your surgery options to address your chronic shoulder pain. We look forward to helping you reclaim your shoulder mobility with the appropriate surgery for your particular shoulder condition.

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