How Is Shoulder Surgery Performed?

Shoulder replacement surgery is the same idea as having worn parts taken out, and new parts installed in their places. In shoulder surgery, the damaged portions of the shoulder bones are removed, and the shoulder is replaced with metal and plastic implants. Here's what you can expect on a typical day of shoulder surgery:

  • A small tube (intravenous line) is inserted into your unaffected arm. This tube is used to administer antibiotics and other medication during your surgery.
  • You're taken to the operating room and given anesthesia.
  • Anesthesia takes effect, and your shoulder is scrubbed and sterilized with a special solution.
  • Your shoulder replacement surgery will likely take between one and three hours and begins with an incision over your shoulder to expose the joint.
  • Bones are fully visible to the surgeon, and special, precision guides and instruments are used to remove the damaged surfaces and cut the humeral head (ball) and prepare the bone to accept the implant.
  • The new implant is inserted.
  • If your socket is to be replaced, its damaged surface is smoothed and a new plastic surface is inserted. For a reverse shoulder, the surface is prepared and the "ball" is attached.
  • The ball and socket are checked for fit and function.
  • When the surgeon is satisfied, the incision is closed and covered with dressings.
  • A sterile bandage is applied.
  • Your arm is put in a splint and may also be wrapped in an ice pack to help control pain and swelling.
  • You're taken to the recovery room, where you will be closely monitored.
  • Anesthesia wears off, and you slowly regain consciousness. A nurse is with you and may encourage you to cough or breathe deeply to help clear your lungs. You’re given pain medication.
  • You are fully awake and are taken to your hospital room.
  • Your shoulder remains swollen and tender for a few days.

Risks of shoulder replacement surgery

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To find a doctor near you, click the ‘find-a-doc’ link. For printed information on joint replacement, call 1-800-447-5633.
Talk to your surgeon about whether joint replacement or another treatment is right for you and the risks of the procedure, including the risk of implant wear, loosening or failure, and pain, swelling and infection. Zimmer Biomet does not practice medicine; only a surgeon can answer your questions regarding your individual symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.