Shoulder Replacement Surgery

Shoulder replacement surgery is an option for treatment of severe arthritis of the shoulder joint. Arthritis is a condition that can cause the normally smooth cartilage lining of the joint to erode. As the cartilage wears away, the protective layer between the bones is lost—when this happens, painful bone-on-bone arthritis can develop. Severe shoulder arthritis is often painful and can cause restriction of shoulder motion. While this may be tolerated with some simple treatments including medications and lifestyle adjustments, there may come a time when surgical treatment is necessary.

X-ray of a shoulder replacement
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Common symptoms of shoulder arthritis include:

  • Pain with activities
  • Limited range of motion
  • Stiffness of the shoulder
  • Swelling of the joint
  • Tenderness around the joint
  • A feeling of grinding or catching within the joint


There are much more simple treatments for shoulder arthritis that should be tried before considering shoulder replacement surgery. Because the shoulder is not a weight-bearing joint (like the knees and hips), many patients can tolerate shoulder arthritis with some simple treatments and modifications of their activities.​


Total shoulder replacement surgery alleviates pain by replacing the damaged bone and cartilage with a metal and plastic implant. The shoulder joint is a ball-and-socket joint, much like the hip joint. The ball is the top of the arm bone (the humerus), and the socket is within the shoulder blade (scapula). This joint allows people an enormous range of motion at the shoulder.

When shoulder replacement surgery is performed, the ball is removed from the top of the humerus and replaced with a metal implant. This is shaped like a half-moon and attached to a stem inserted down the center of the arm bone. The socket portion of the joint is shaved clean and replaced with a plastic socket that is cemented into the shoulder blade.

Timing of Replacement

Patients who have tried the usual treatments for shoulder arthritis, but have not been able to find adequate relief, may be a candidate for shoulder replacement surgery. Patients considering the procedure should understand how shoulder replacement is done, the possible risks of surgery, and understand that the goal of joint replacement is to alleviate pain, not increase strength or motion. Patients generally find improved motion after surgery, but these improvements are not as consistent as the pain relief following shoulder replacement surgery.

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