Shoulder replacement surgery

Often the result of a fall, a sporting injury or due to general ‘wear and tear’, shoulder replacements are commonly performed by any of the four specialist surgeons operating at Spire Bristol Hospital.  Once the extent of the damage to the shoulder has been determined by your consultant, the best route to return you to good health and normal activity will be discussed so you can plan your treatment at a time to suit you.

What’s involved in shoulder replacement surgery?

Each shoulder is made up of three joints. These joints work together to help the shoulder move. The largest of these joints is a ball and socket joint. The “ball” is formed by the top of the upper arm bone, which glides around on a “socket”, which is part of the shoulder blade.

During shoulder surgery, a metal ball on a stem is inserted into the upper arm bone and a plastic surface is fitted onto the socket.

Shoulder surgery is usually done under general anaesthesia, which means that you will be asleep during the procedure. However, for some patients, regional anaesthesia is preferable. This blocks the feeling in your shoulder and arm but you stay awake. Your surgeon and anaesthetist will discuss with you which type of anaesthesia is most suitable in your case.

You will need to stay in hospital for two to five days.

An artificial joint will usually last for at least ten years, after which it may need to be replaced.

Your surgeon will explain the benefits and risks of having a shoulder replacement surgery, and will also discuss the alternatives to the procedure.

About the shoulder replacement operation

A single cut, usually around 10 to 20cm long, is made along the upper arm and shoulder. When the joint has been replaced, your surgeon closes the cut with stitches or clips. The operation usually takes up to two hours.

Afterwards, a physiotherapist will visit you every day in hospital to guide you through exercises to help you recover. You will be encouraged to move your new shoulder from the first day.

After surgery, your shoulder area is likely to be sore for several weeks. You may also feel temporary pain and swelling in the upper arm.

Having a shoulder replacement is generally a safe procedure. However, all surgery carries an element of risk.

Some of the complications specific to shoulder replacement are listed here:

  • infection of the wound or joint. Antibiotics are given during surgery to help prevent this.
  • for up to six weeks after the operation, it is possible to develop a blood clot (DVT) in the veins in the leg. This clot can break off and cause a blockage in the lungs. In most cases this is treatable, but it can be a life-threatening condition. Compression stockings and blood-thinning injections are used to help prevent DVT.
  • occasionally, small cracks in the bone result in a fracture of one of the shoulder bones during the operation. This can be treated but may slow down your recovery.
  • damage to the nerves or blood vessels controlling the arm and hand. This is usually mild and temporary.
  • the new joint may dislocate. This is most likely to happen immediately after the operation and you may need further surgery to treat this.

The chance of complications depends on the exact type of operation you are having and other factors such as your general health. Ask your surgeon to explain how these risks apply to you.

Why should I consider having my shoulder replacement surgery at a Spire hospital?

Whether you have medical insurance or are paying for your treatment yourself, with Spire Healthcare you will be seen quickly by the consultant-grade surgeon of your choice at a time that suits you. You will be treated in a premium private hospital with some of the UK's highest standards of cleanliness and infection control. What's more, you will have your own room with ensuite bathroom, and visitors can come to see you whenever you wish.

To find out more about having a shoulder replacement privately or to get a guide price, simply

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