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Shoulder Replacement Surgery Through the Institute for Joint Restoration and Research

Shoulder Replacement Surgery Through the Institute for Joint Restoration and Research

Author: John G. Costouros, MD

Posted: March 2020

One in 4 Americans is living with some form of arthritis. A collection of more than a hundred different conditions, arthritis and other rheumatic conditions can cause anything from joint pain and stiffness to skin rash.

The most common form of arthritis is primary osteoarthritis, also called degenerative joint disease or OA. Over time, the inflammation caused by OA erodes the cartilage within a joint, a connective tissue that coats the ball and socket parts of the joint and allows for smooth and fluid motion. Once the cartilage is worn out, the bones in a joint grind against each other, causing pain and reduced function. The physical limitations OA can cause is why it is the leading cause of disability in the US.

While most commonly found in the hip and knee, it’s estimated that 1 in 3 people over the age of 55 have shoulder OA.

Arthritis in the Shoulder

Total shoulder replacement, also known as total shoulder arthroplasty, is used to treat the degenerative effects of arthritis by replacing the worn joint with a synthetic implant. Using modern techniques and implants, total shoulder replacement is able to reliably eliminate pain and restore nearly normal function so you can return to normal work and most recreational activities. Unlike the more common hip and knee joint replacement surgeries, total shoulder replacement is less prone to ‘wearing out’ and can last a lifetime.

While less common than knee or hip replacement, some 53,000 Americans undergo shoulder joint replacement surgery each year. There are two categories of total shoulder replacement: (1) anatomic total shoulder replacement and (2) reverse total shoulder replacement. The reverse total shoulder replacement is designed for patients with rotator cuff tears, select complex fractures, and some revision situations where an anatomic total shoulder replacement will not perform well.

Before this procedure can be recommended, your doctor may order X-rays to determine the extent of your joint damage and alignment. Your doctor may then follow up with a CT scan or MRI to evaluate the quality and condition of the surrounding bone and tissue. Recent technological advances now enable the surgeon to use software to virtually plan for your surgery and allow for greater precision during surgery using CT scans.

Depending on how advanced your joint damage is, your doctor may recommend nonsurgical treatments like physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications or injections. These conservative measures may delay the need for surgery by reducing symptoms but will not reverse the loss of cartilage. In some cases, a minimally invasive outpatient procedure, called shoulder arthroscopy, may be an option for select patients whose arthritis is not very advanced or who are not candidates for total shoulder replacement.

Shoulder Replacement at the IJRR

If you’re living with shoulder arthritis, you already know how the pain and reduced motion can impact your quality of life. However, while there may be no cure for arthritis, it is possible to live a long, full life thanks to advancements in joint replacement procedures, like the ones offered through Washington Hospital’s Institute for Joint Restoration and Research.

At the IJRR, we’ve streamlined the joint replacement process, turning what was once a weeklong stay in the hospital into, for the majority of cases, an outpatient procedure without sacrificing patient outcomes or quality of care. Building on the successes of our hip and knee replacement specialties, we’ve recently added total shoulder replacement to service offerings. The vast majority of patients who undergo total shoulder replacement are discharged on the same day of surgery or the following day.

Learn more about how education and specialization are improving quality of life for our patients, with our featured video on the Institute for Joint Restoration and Research.