Cookies on the Bupa website

We use cookies to help us understand ease of use and relevance of content. This ensures that we can give you the best experience on our website. If you continue, we'll assume that you are happy to receive cookies for this purpose. Find out more about cookies

Continue

Navigation

Shoulder replacement

You may be more familiar with hip and knee replacements, but every year in the UK over 5,500 people have their shoulder joint replaced. This involves replacing your shoulder joint if it has been damaged or worn away, usually by arthritis or injury.

Your shoulder is a ball and socket joint. The ball at the top of your upper arm moves smoothly in the socket of your shoulder blade on a lining of cartilage. The shiny cartilage prevents your bones from rubbing together. If your cartilage is damaged by injury or worn away by arthritis, it can make your joint painful and stiff.

A new shoulder joint can help to improve your shoulder movement and reduce your pain there. Artificial shoulder parts are usually made of metal or plastic, or a combination of these.

The average age for people having a shoulder replacement is around 70 years, with many people being well over 70. An artificial shoulder joint will usually last for at least 10 years, often for much longer.

Details

  • Types Types of shoulder replacement

    There are several different types of shoulder replacement.

    • In a total shoulder replacement (shoulder arthroplasty), an artificial ball is attached to the top of your upper arm. An artificial socket is also attached to your shoulder blade.
    • In a reverse shoulder replacement, an artificial ball is attached to your shoulder blade. An artificial socket is also fitted to the top of your upper arm. So the ball and socket have ‘switched places’.
    • In a partial shoulder replacement, part of your shoulder joint is replaced, usually the ball at the top of your upper arm. This procedure is also known as hemiarthroplasty, as only half the joint is replaced.

    Your surgeon will discuss with you what would be the best procedure in your particular circumstances.

  • Preparation Preparing for a shoulder replacement

    Most hospitals invite you for a pre-admission visit a week or so before your surgery. In the clinic they’ll check that you’re fit for your operation and the anaesthetic. This visit gives you a chance to ask any questions you have about your admission. You’ll be told how to prepare for your procedure. For example, if you smoke, you’ll be asked to stop. Smoking increases your risk of getting a chest and wound infection, which can slow your recovery.

    Before you go into hospital it’s good to think about how you’re going to manage at home afterwards. Is everything you need within easy reach? You may want to have someone stay with you for a while after your operation, to help out. And make sure you have someone to take you to the hospital and bring you home after your operation. Plan to be away from home for between two and five days.

    In hospital

    If you’re having a general anaesthetic, you’ll have been asked to follow fasting instructions. This means not eating or drinking, typically for about six hours beforehand. However, it’s important to follow your surgeon or anaesthetist’s advice.

    You may be asked to wear compression stockings to help prevent blood clots forming in the veins in your legs. You may need to have an injection of an anticlotting medicine called heparin as well as, or instead of, wearing compression stockings.

    Your surgeon will discuss with you what will happen before, during and after your procedure, and any pain you might have. This is your opportunity to ask questions so that you understand what will be happening. You don’t have to go ahead with the procedure if you decide you don’t want it. Once you understand the procedure and if you agree to have it, your doctor will ask you to sign a consent form.

    Bupa On Demand: Musculoskeletal services

    If you are concerned about your muscles, bones and joints, Bupa can help you get a diagnosis.

  • Alternatives What are the alternatives to shoulder replacement?

    Your surgeon will usually only recommend that you have surgery if other treatments haven’t worked for you. These may include:

    Shoulder resurfacing is an alternative surgical option. Ask your surgeon to explain if this is an option for you.

  • The procedure What happens during a shoulder replacement?

    Shoulder replacement is carried out by an orthopaedic surgeon (a doctor who specialises in bone surgery). The procedure usually takes around two hours, depending on how complicated your surgery is.

    You’ll have a shoulder replacement under either general anaesthesia or local (regional) anaesthesia. General anaesthesia means you’ll be asleep during the operation. Local anaesthesia completely blocks pain from your shoulder and you’ll stay awake during the operation. In some cases you may have both types of anaesthesia, to help ease pain after your surgery. Your surgeon will talk to you about which type of anaesthesia is best for you. You might have a sedative as well as local anaesthetic. This relieves anxiety and will help you to relax.

    Once the anaesthesia has taken effect, your surgeon will reach your shoulder joint by making a cut, usually down the front of your shoulder.

    After completing the chosen replacement procedure your surgeon will close the cut with stitches or clips and cover the wound with a dressing.

  • Muscle, bone and joint treatment

    At our Bupa Health Centres, we offer self-pay health services for a wide range of conditions, including muscle, bone and joint treatment.

  • Aftercare What to expect afterwards

    You may need to stay in hospital for two to five days after your operation, depending on how good your general health is.

    You may need to rest until the effects of the anaesthetic have passed. If you have a local anaesthetic, it may take several hours before the feeling comes back into your treated shoulder. Take special care not to bump or knock the area.

    You’ll be given pain relief to help with any discomfort as the anaesthetic wears off. Tell your nurse if you’re in pain.

    You may have fine tubes running out from your wound. These drain fluid into a bag and are usually removed after a day or two. When you feel ready, you can begin to drink and eat.

    You may be wearing compression stockings on your legs to help maintain circulation. Your nurse will encourage you to get out of bed and move around as this helps prevent chest infections and blood clots in your legs.

    A physiotherapist (a health professional who specialises in maintaining and improving movement and mobility) will visit you after your operation. They’ll guide you through exercises to help you recover. Your physiotherapist will encourage you to move your shoulder from the first day after your operation. This helps to prevent stiffness and will help your shoulder to heal. It’s important that you follow their advice about how to move your shoulder.

    Your nurse may give you some advice about caring for your healing wounds before you go home. You may be given a date for a follow-up appointment.

    Having a general anaesthetic can temporarily affect your co-ordination and reasoning skills. So you mustn’t drive, drink alcohol, operate machinery or sign legal documents for 24 hours afterwards.

  • Recovery Recovering from a shoulder replacement

    It usually takes at least three months to make a full recovery from a shoulder replacement. However, this varies between individuals, so it's important to follow your surgeon's advice.

    You may need to keep your arm in a sling for several weeks after the operation.

    You should be able to look after yourself and eat and dress within a few weeks after surgery. Don't place your arm in any extreme positions (such as straight out to your side or behind your back) for six weeks after your operation.

    Your surgeon may recommend that you don't do any heavy lifting for up to six weeks after your operation. It's best not to do any repetitive heavy lifting at all after the operation as this will help your new joint to last.

    Ask your surgeon for advice about returning to work and other activities.

    If you need pain relief, you can take over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. Always read the patient information leaflet that comes with the medicine and if you have any questions, ask your pharmacist for advice.

    It’s important to continue to do the exercises your physiotherapist recommends. These will help your shoulder to heal and may help you to recover more quickly.

  • Side-effects Side-effects of a shoulder replacement

    Side-effects are the unwanted but mostly temporary effects you may get after having the operation.

    After shoulder replacement surgery you may have pins and needles in your arm and fingers, especially if you’ve had a local (regional) anaesthetic. These should soon settle. After the operation your shoulder and arm may be sore or uncomfortable for several weeks. You may also have some stiffness around your shoulder.

  • Complications Complications of a shoulder replacement

    As with every procedure, there are some risks associated with a shoulder replacement. We have not included the chance of these happening as they are specific to you and differ for every person. Ask your surgeon to explain how these risks apply to you.

    Side-effects

    Side-effects are the unwanted but mostly temporary effects you may get after having the operation.

    After shoulder replacement surgery, your shoulder and arm may be sore or uncomfortable for several weeks. You may also have some swelling around your shoulder.

    Complications

    Complications are when problems occur during or after the operation.

    The possible complications of any operation include an unexpected reaction to the anaesthetic, excessive bleeding or infection. You may also develop a blood clot, usually in a vein in the leg (deep vein thrombosis).

    Some of the complications of shoulder replacement are listed below.

    • Your shoulder joint may become unstable. This happens when the top of your upper arm moves out of its socket (the top of your shoulder blade). It's caused by problems with the muscles or ligaments around your shoulder joint.
    • Occasionally, small cracks in your bone may cause one of your shoulder bones (the humerus or scapula) to crack completely (fracture). You can have treatment for this but it may slow down your recovery.
    • Infection of the wound or joint. Your surgeon may give you antibiotics during surgery to help prevent this.
    • Accidental damage to your shoulder joint, including nerves, muscles and blood vessels around your shoulder.
  • FAQ: Pain after a shoulder replacement How much pain will I be in after my operation?

    It’s natural to feel some pain after a surgical operation, but don’t worry – you’ll be given pain relief.

    Immediately after your operation, and when you’re in hospital, you’ll be given pain-relieving medicines. You may be given an injection, tablets to swallow, or have medicine given to you by a patient-controlled system. This allows you to control the amount of pain relief you receive.

    In some cases, even if you have a general anaesthetic, your doctor will also inject a local (regional) anaesthetic into your shoulder. This then continues to numb your shoulder even after you wake up.

    When you’re recovering at home, you can take over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. Always read the patient information leaflet that come with your medicine and of you have any questions, ask your pharmacist for advice.

    If your pain is severe or doesn’t improve, contact the hospital or your surgeon for more advice.

  • FAQ: Exercises after a shoulder replacement What exercises can I do to help my recovery?

    Your physiotherapist will give you an exercise plan to help your recovery after a shoulder replacement. The type of exercises you need to do will depend on the reasons for your shoulder replacement. Most exercises will help to get your shoulder joint moving and strengthen the muscles around your shoulder.

    Your surgeon and physiotherapist will decide the best type of exercises for you. They’ll advise how many, and how often you need to do them. It’s really important that you follow their advice about what you should, and shouldn’t do with your shoulder. That will give you the best chance for a good recovery.

    Speak to your physiotherapist if you have any questions or concerns about the exercises you’re doing.

  • FAQ: Repeated shoulder replacement Will I need to have another shoulder replacement?

    Your shoulder replacement should last for at least 10 years, and probably a lot longer. In more than seven in 10 people their shoulder replacement lasts for 20 years. However, in time the artificial parts of the joint may start to loosen from general wear and tear.

    A repeat shoulder replacement operation is also known as a revision. If you need to have your artificial joint replaced, the procedure can be more difficult and complicated than your first operation. This is because your surgeon will need to remove your artificial joint before they can put a new joint in. It’s also possible that your upper arm bone (humerus) will become thinner over time. It usually takes you a little longer to recover from a repeat shoulder replacement than from the first operation.

    Your surgeon will give you more information about a second joint replacement if you need one.

  • Other helpful websites Other helpful websites

    Further information

    Sources

    • Shoulder hemiarthroplasty. Medscape. www.emedicine.medscape.com, updated 23 December 2015
    • Glenohumeral arthritis overview of the arthritic shoulder. Medscape. www.medscape.com, updated 30 November 2015
    • Shoulder joint replacements. PatientPlus. patient.info/patientplus, last checked 11 February 2013
    • Common postoperative complications. PatientPlus. patient.info/patientplus, published 11 February 2013
    • Shoulder and elbow replacement. Arthritis Research UK. www.arthritisresearchuk.org, accessed 21 July 2016
    • Public and patient guide: shoulder replacement edition. National Joint Registry, 2015. www.njrcentre.org.uk
    • Singh JA, Sperling J, Buchbinder R, et al. Surgery for shoulder osteoarthritis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2010, Issue 10. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD008089.pub2.
    • Shoulder joint replacement. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. orthoinfo.aaos.org, last reviewed December 2011
    • Shoulder surgery. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. orthoinfo.aaos.org, published August 2009
  • Has our information helped you? Tell us what you think about this page

    We’d love to know what you think about what you’ve just been reading and looking at – we’ll use it to improve our information. If you’d like to give us some feedback, our short form below will take just a few minutes to complete. And if there's a question you want to ask that hasn't been answered here, please submit it to us. Although we can't respond to specific questions directly, we’ll aim to include the answer to it when we next review this topic.

    Let us know what you think using our short feedback form
    Ask us a question
  • Related information Related information

  • Author information Author information

    Reviewed by Dr Kristina Routh, Freelance Health Editor, Bupa Health Content Team, August 2016
    Peer reviewed by Mr Roger M Tillman FRCS Orth, Consultant, Royal Orthopaedic Hospital Birmingham
    Next review due August 2019

About our health information

At Bupa we produce a wealth of free health information for you and your family. We believe that trustworthy information is essential in helping you make better decisions about your health and care. Here are just a few of the ways in which our core editorial principles have been recognised.

  • Information Standard

    We are certified by the Information Standard. This quality mark identifies reliable, trustworthy producers and sources of health information.
    Information standard logo
  • HONcode

    This site complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information: verify here.

    This website is certified by Health On the Net Foundation. Click to verify.

What our readers say about us

But don't just take our word for it; here's some feedback from our readers.

Simple and easy to use website - not alarming, just helpful.

It’s informative but not too detailed. I like that it’s factual and realistic about the conditions and the procedures involved. It’s also easy to navigate to areas that you specifically want without having to read all the information.

Good information, easy to find, trustworthy.

Meet the team

Image of Andrew Byron

Andrew Byron
Head of health content and clinical engagement




  • Dylan Merkett – Lead Editor – UK Customer
  • Nick Ridgman – Lead Editor – UK Health and Care Services
  • Natalie Heaton – Specialist Editor – User Experience
  • Pippa Coulter – Specialist Editor – Content Library
  • Alice Rossiter – Specialist Editor – Insights
  • Laura Blanks – Specialist Editor – Quality
  • Michelle Harrison – Editorial Assistant

Our core principles

All our health content is produced in line with our core editorial principles – readable, reliable, relevant – which are represented by our diagram.

An image showing or editorial principals

                  Click to open full-size image

The ‘3Rs’ encompass everything we believe good health information should be. From tweets to in-depth reports, videos to quizzes, every piece of content we produce has these as its foundation.

Readable

In a nutshell, our information is jargon-free, concise and accessible. We know our audience and we meet their health information needs, helping them to take the next step in their health and wellbeing journey.

Reliable

We use the best quality and most up-to-date evidence to produce our information. Our process is transparent and validated by experts – both our users and medical specialists.

Relevant

We know that our users want the right information at the right time, in the way that suits them. So we review our content at least every three years to keep it fresh. And we’re embracing new technology and social media so they can get it whenever and wherever they choose.

Our accreditation

Here are just a few of the ways in which the quality of our information has been recognised.

  • The Information Standard certification scheme

    You will see the Information Standard quality mark on our content. This is a certification programme, supported by NHS England, that was developed to ensure that public-facing health and care information is created to a set of best practice principles.

    It uses only recognised evidence sources and presents the information in a clear and balanced way. The Information Standard quality mark is a quick and easy way for you to identify reliable and trustworthy producers and sources of information.

    Certified by the Information Standard as a quality provider of health and social care information. Bupa shall hold responsibility for the accuracy of the information they publish and neither the Scheme Operator nor the Scheme Owner shall have any responsibility whatsoever for costs, losses or direct or indirect damages or costs arising from inaccuracy of information or omissions in information published on the website on behalf of Bupa.

  • British Medical Association (BMA) patient information awards

    We have received a number of BMA awards for different assets over the years. Most recently, in 2013, we received a 'commended' award for our online shared decision making hub.

Contact us

If you have any feedback on our health information, we would love to hear from you. Please contact us via email: healthinfo@bupa.com. Or you can write to us:

Health Content Team
Bupa House
15-19 Bloomsbury Way
London
WC1A 2BA

Find out more Close

Legal disclaimer

This information was published by Bupa's Health Content Team and is based on reputable sources of medical evidence. It has been reviewed by appropriate medical or clinical professionals. Photos are only for illustrative purposes and do not reflect every presentation of a condition.

The information contained on this page and in any third party websites referred to on this page is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice nor is it intended to be for medical diagnosis or treatment. Third party websites are not owned or controlled by Bupa and any individual may be able to access and post messages on them. Bupa is not responsible for the content or availability of these third party websites. We do not accept advertising on this page.

For more details on how we produce our content and its sources, visit the 'About our health information' section.

ˆ We may record or monitor our calls.