Shoulder prosthesis

What is the shoulder prosthesis?

A shoulder prosthesis is an artificial joint that replaces your damaged shoulder joint by surgical intervention. It is usually carried out when other forms of conservative treatment haven’t worked to relieve symptoms of pain, discomfort and reduced range of movement in your shoulder. People who suffer from osteoarthritis often require a shoulder prosthesis.

Why is a shoulder prosthesis used?

The procedure is usually carried out on people who suffer from advanced osteoarthritis or severe shoulder arthritis (rheumatoid arthritis) and require a shoulder prosthesis. It can help control pain and regain lost functionality.

What does the surgery consist of?

A shoulder prosthesis is placed through a surgical intervention under general anaesthesia. The operation usually lasts about 2 hours and you will normally need to spend around 5 days in the hospital.

There are two types of prostheses; the surgery of which will depend on the damage of the joint and the adjacent tendon structures that support the joint. The two types of prosthesis include an anatomical prosthesis or reverse shoulder prosthesis.

  • Anatomical shoulder prosthesis — this type allows the shoulder implant to be tailored to the patient's anatomy and requires that the shoulder tendons are preserved
  • Reverse shoulder prostheses — the shoulder joint is replaced with parts made out of metal and plastic

There are other types of prosthesis models that are used, however, this depends on the underlying problem and the age of the patient. The different models include humeral surface prosthesis, anatomical total shoulder prosthesis or hemiarthroplasty of the shoulder.


The specialist will advise you what preparations to follow before surgery. They depend on the type and location of the injury, as well as your age and how previous therapies have worked.


Shortly after surgery, you will be taught some gentle, passive exercises to help mobilise the shoulder. You will also need to attend a course of physiotherapy which normally begins 4-6 weeks after the operation.

You can expect some postoperative pain, however, local anaesthesia is injected into the arm to numb the area before the surgery. Therefore, when you wake up, you shouldn’t feel any intense pain as the arm will very likely still feel numb. Once the anaesthesia wears off, you will need to take some pain relievers to ensure the postoperative period is more comfortable for you.

Alternatives treatments

The alternatives to undergoing a shoulder replacement are conservative treatments that aim to preserve the function and health of the shoulder joint. Before undergoing a shoulder replacement, your specialist will first try other conservative therapies and treatments.

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