Your shoulder is made up of three joints, which work together to help it move. The largest of these is a ball and socket joint. The “ball” is formed by the top of your upper arm bone, which glides around on a “socket”, which is part of your shoulder blade. During shoulder surgery, a metal ball on a stem is inserted into your upper arm bone and a plastic surface is fitted onto the socket.
One of the most common reasons why people need shoulder replacement surgery is osteoarthritis, a condition that makes joints stiff, causes shoulder pain, and impairs movement.
Your doctor may suggest surgery if other treatment options such as steroid injections and physiotherapy have not helped you.
If you decide to have your treatment with us, you will be looked after by an experienced multi-disciplinary care team.
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Our consultants have high standards to meet, often holding specialist NHS posts and delivering expertise in complex sub-specialty surgeries. A number of our consultants have international reputations for their research in their specialised field.
All of our surgeons are of the highest calibre and benefit from working in our modern, well equipped hospitals. If you don't have someone in mind, we can help you choose the best consultant for you.
You will have a formal consultation with a healthcare professional. During this time you will be able to explain your medical history, symptoms and raise any concerns that you might have.
We will also discuss with you whether any further diagnostic tests, such as scans or blood tests, are needed. Any additional costs will be discussed before further tests are carried out.
If there are any other treatment pathways to consider such as steroid injections and physiotherapy that might be an option or if you can be booked straight in for a procedure.
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Our dedicated team will also give you tailored advice to follow in the run up to your visit.
Around ten days before your operation you will be asked to attend a pre-admission clinic for routine blood, urine and blood pressure tests. A physiotherapist may talk to you about your home requirements so that any necessary arrangements can be planned before you go into hospital.
If you normally take medication (for example, tablets for blood pressure), continue to take this as usual, unless your surgeon or anaesthetist specifically tells you not to. If you are unsure about taking your medication, please contact the hospital. You shouldn’t eat or drink anything from midnight on the day of your operation.
We understand that having surgery can potentially be a time of anxiety and worry. Our experienced and caring medical staff will be there for you every step of the way.
Shoulder surgery is usually done under general anaesthesia, which means that you'll be asleep during the procedure. But some patients may have regional anaesthesia, which 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. The operation usually takes up to two hours.
During the procedure, your surgeon will make a single cut (usually around 10 to 20cm long) along your upper arm and shoulder. When the joint has been replaced, your surgeon will close the cut with stitches or clips.
You will be given antibiotics during surgery to help prevent infection of the wound or joint.
You will need to stay in hospital for two to five days.
After the procedure, you will be taken from the operating theatre to a recovery room, where you will come round from the anaesthesia under close supervision.
After this, you will be taken to your own private room complete with en-suite facilities, TV and Wi-Fi where you can recover in comfort until you’re able to go home.
After surgery, your shoulder area is likely to be sore for several weeks. You may also feel temporary pain and swelling in your upper arm. If you need them, continue taking painkillers as advised by the hospital. We will provide you with a 14 day supply of all the medicines your consultant feels you need to take home with you after you've left hospital.
Suffering from pain can interfere with your recovery, particularly if it prevents you from doing your exercises, so please discuss any discomfort you have with your nurse or surgeon.
A physiotherapist will visit you while you are in hospital and encourage you to move your new shoulder from the first day.
It is crucial that you continue with the exercises recommended by your physiotherapist, as these will aid healing and help you recover more quickly.
It will take some months to get the strength and movement back in your arm. A full recovery can take up to six months.
An artificial joint will usually last for at least 10 years, after which you may need to have it replaced.
Once you’re ready to be discharged from hospital, you’ll need to arrange a taxi, friend or family member to take you home. You must not drive or lift objects until your surgeon tells you that it is safe to do so.
You may find that some routine daily activities, such as shopping, are difficult for a few weeks and you’ll need some help with light errands.
Even after you’ve left hospital, we’re still looking after you every step of the way. After a shoulder replacement, we will provide you with all the appropriate medication, physiotherapy exercises, advice on what to do and not to do with your shoulder and follow-up support.
Typically your consultant will want to see you after your treatment to see how you’re doing.
You will be encouraged to move your new shoulder from the first day. You may be asked to use a continuous passive motion machine which gently moves your new shoulder, this is because it helps to prevent stiffness.
On rare occasions, complications following a shoulder replacement can occur. If you experience any of these symptoms – infection, blood clots, damage to the nerves or blood vessels, fracture – call us straight away. The new joint may also dislocate. This is most likely to happen immediately after the operation and you may need further surgery to treat this.
Your consultant will talk to you about the possible risks and complications of having this procedure. The chance of complications depends on the exact type of operation you are having and other factors such as your general health. We will talk to you about the possible risks and complications of having this procedure and how they apply to you.
If you have any questions or concerns, we’re ready to help.
We are committed to delivering excellent individual care and customer service across our network of hospitals, clinics and specialist care centres around the UK. Our dedicated and highly trained team aim to achieve consistently excellent results. For us it's more than just treating patients, it's about looking after people.
The treatment described on this page may be adapted to meet your individual needs, so it's important to follow your healthcare professional's advice and raise any questions that you may have with them.
Spire Thames Valley Hospital is only a 10 minute drive from both the M4 and M40 motorways and we are less than half an hour from central London by train.
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