Reverse Shoulder Replacement

This article will discuss the intricacies of reverse shoulder replacement surgery, including its purpose, procedure, and recovery process. 

For those seeking expert guidance and specialized care, Orthopedic Specialists & Sports Medicine stands ready to provide comprehensive orthopedic and sports medicine services in Granville and Coshocton, Ohio. If you’re considering reverse shoulder replacement surgery or have questions about your shoulder health, we encourage you to reach out and schedule an appointment with our experienced team.

What is a Reverse Shoulder Replacement Surgery?

Reverse shoulder replacement surgery is a joint replacement procedure to treat severe shoulder pain and limited movement. Unlike a regular shoulder replacement, where the ball of the upper arm bone fits into the socket of the shoulder joint, a reverse total shoulder replacement switches these parts around.

Here’s how it works: The surgeon attaches a metal ball to the shoulder bone and a plastic socket to the upper arm bone. This reversal allows other shoulder muscles to step in and compensate for the damaged ones, improving stability and range of motion.

It’s typically done for patients with a torn rotator cuff or severe arthritis, who can’t benefit from traditional surgery. After the procedure, patients usually undergo physical therapy to regain strength and mobility in their shoulder. Reverse shoulder replacement surgery can significantly alleviate pain and improve the ability to perform daily tasks.

What Conditions Does a Reverse Shoulder Replacement Surgery Treat?

Reverse shoulder replacement surgery is often used to treat several conditions that cause severe shoulder pain and limited mobility. One common condition is shoulder arthritis, where the smooth cartilage covering the shoulder joint wears away, leading to pain and stiffness. When shoulder arthritis is severe and traditional treatments like medications and physical therapy no longer help, reverse shoulder replacement may be recommended.

Another condition that may benefit from this surgery is rotator cuff tear arthropathy. This condition occurs when a tear in the rotator cuff—the group of muscles and tendons that stabilize the shoulder joint—leads to arthritis and progressive shoulder weakness. When the rotator cuff is torn and traditional surgery isn’t an option, reverse shoulder replacement can provide relief by using different muscles to move the shoulder.

Individuals with massive rotator cuff tears, where the tendons are severely damaged and cannot be repaired, may also be candidates for reverse shoulder replacement. In these cases, the surgery can help restore function and alleviate pain by changing the mechanics of the shoulder joint.

What is the Difference Between a Reverse Shoulder Replacement and a Standard Shoulder Replacement?

The main difference between a reverse shoulder replacement and a standard shoulder replacement lies in how the artificial parts are placed in the shoulder joint. In a standard shoulder replacement, the metal ball is attached to the upper arm bone (humerus), and the plastic socket is fixed into the shoulder blade (scapula), mimicking the natural anatomy. This works well when the rotator cuff muscles are intact.

In contrast, a reverse shoulder replacement switches the positions of these parts. The metal ball is fixed into the shoulder blade, and the plastic socket is attached to the upper arm bone. This reversal allows other shoulder muscles to take over the function of the damaged rotator cuff, providing stability and improved range of motion. Reverse shoulder replacement is often used when the rotator cuff is severely torn or when other treatments have failed to provide relief.

A doctor explaining how a reverse shoulder replacement works to a patient in Granville, Ohio.

How Can I Prepare for a Reverse Shoulder Replacement Surgery?

Preparing for reverse shoulder replacement surgery involves several steps to ensure the best possible outcome:

  1. Consultation: Meet with your surgeon to discuss the procedure, ask questions, and address any concerns.
  2. Medical Evaluation: Undergo a thorough medical evaluation to assess your overall health and identify any conditions that could affect surgery or recovery.
  3. Medications: Inform your surgeon about any medications you’re taking, including prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, and supplements. Some medications may need to be adjusted before surgery.
  4. Lifestyle Changes: Your surgeon may recommend lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking or losing weight, to reduce the risk of complications during and after surgery.
  5. Physical Therapy: Start a physical therapy program before surgery to strengthen the muscles around your shoulder and improve mobility. This can help speed up recovery after the procedure.
  6. Home Preparation: Arrange for assistance at home during the initial recovery period, and make necessary adjustments to your living space for comfort and convenience.

What Happens During a Reverse Shoulder Replacement Surgery?

During a reverse shoulder replacement surgery, you’ll be given anesthesia to keep you comfortable and pain-free. The surgeon starts by making an incision on the shoulder to access the joint. Then, they remove any damaged tissue, including the worn-out cartilage and bone.

Next, the surgeon attaches a metal ball to the shoulder blade and a plastic socket to the upper arm bone. This reversal of the natural anatomy allows other shoulder muscles to take over the function of the damaged rotator cuff muscles and rotator cuff tendons. The new artificial joint provides stability and allows for improved movement.

Once the artificial components are securely in place, the surgeon closes the incision with stitches or staples. After surgery, you’ll go to a recovery area where medical staff will monitor you closely as you wake up from anesthesia. Physical therapy will be an essential part of your recovery to help you regain strength and range of motion in your shoulder.

How Long Does it Take to Recover After a Reverse Shoulder Replacement Surgery?

Recovery time from reverse shoulder replacement surgery varies for each person, but most patients start to notice improvements within a few weeks. Initially, you may need to stay in the hospital for a day or two for monitoring. After discharge, you’ll wear a sling to support your arm and protect the surgical site.

Physical therapy is crucial during recovery. You’ll begin gentle exercises to restore movement and gradually increase strength. It may take several months to regain full function, but you’ll likely be able to resume normal daily activities within a few weeks.

Full recovery from reverse shoulder replacement surgery typically takes about 3 to 6 months. However, individual factors such as overall health, the extent of the surgery, and adherence to rehabilitation play a significant role in recovery time. Your surgeon and physical therapist will provide guidance and support throughout the recovery process.

What is the Success Rate of Reverse Shoulder Replacement Surgery?

The success rate of reverse shoulder replacement surgery is generally high, with many patients experiencing significant pain relief and improved shoulder function. Studies have shown success rates of around 80% to 90% in relieving pain and restoring mobility.

However, there are some potential cons of reverse shoulder replacement surgery to consider. These may include risks such as infection, nerve injury, or instability of the artificial joint. Additionally, some patients may not achieve the same level of shoulder function as they had before surgery, particularly if they have underlying medical conditions or complications during recovery.

Overall, while reverse shoulder replacement surgery can be highly effective for many individuals with certain shoulder conditions, it’s essential to discuss the potential risks and benefits with your healthcare provider to make an informed decision about the best treatment option for you.

Schedule an Appointment Today!

If you’re struggling with shoulder pain and limited mobility, don’t hesitate to seek help from a qualified orthopedic specialist. At Orthopedic Specialists & Sports Medicine, we offer expert care and personalized treatment plans to help you regain control of your shoulder health.

With convenient locations in Granville and Coshocton, OH scheduling an appointment is easy.  Orthopedic Urgent Care is also available during our normal business hours. Take the first step towards a pain-free, active life by contacting us today!

Medically reviewed by Brad L. Bernacki, MD