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Introduction: In shoulder arthroplasty, the damaged bone and cartilage of the shoulder are removed and replaced with artificial components. 

Function: To relieve pain as well as to restore and maintain function of the shoulder and arm. 

History of Injury: Although some people may need shoulder arthroplasty after an injury, more often, the procedure is performed on people who are dealing with the effects of rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis.

Diagnosis: Your orthopedic surgeon will ask you questions about your general health as well as your shoulder pain and how it is impacting your ability to function. He or she will also perform a physical exam to assess the strength, range of motion, and stability of your shoulder. To better understand the location and the extent of the damage, you will have X-rays taken of your shoulder. Depending on your situation, your orthopedic surgeon may also take blood tests or an MRI as well.

Treatment: Treatment depends on the extent and location of your shoulder damage. You may only need the head of your humerus bone replaced (ball) or both the humerus and the glenoid (socket).

Initial: Before recommending shoulder arthroplasty, your orthopedic surgeon may suggest other treatments, such as taking anti-inflammatory medications, steroid injections, or undergoing physical therapy.

Long Term: If nonsurgical treatments are not helpful or no longer relieve pain, shoulder arthroplasty could be a good option for you.

Indications for Surgery: If you have rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis and your shoulder pain is interfering with your daily life—even while you are resting—you may be a good candidate for shoulder arthroplasty. If you have post-traumatic arthritis due to an injury, you may also benefit from shoulder arthroplasty.

Surgery: The procedure takes place in a hospital. After you are given anesthesia, your orthopedic surgeon will make an incision between two muscles on the front of your shoulder—the deltoid and the pectoralis major. Next, he or she will replace both sides of your joint, the humeral head (ball) and the glenoid (socket). The ball is metal and is attached to a stem that’s secured inside the upper humeral canal. The socket is made from plastic and is secured into the scapular (shoulder blade).

Post-Operation: After surgery, you will be moved to another room, where you will remain for several hours while your recover from your anesthesia. When you wake up, you will be wearing a sling. You should carefully follow your orthopedic surgeon’s instructions regarding when you can remove the sling and move your elbow, wrist, and fingers. 

Rehabilitation: Your orthopedic surgeon will provide you with specific instructions about what you can and cannot do while your shoulder is healing. You will need to keep the sling on for several weeks after surgery and do exercises and stretching activities consistently, at home or working with a physical therapist, to help your shoulder heal properly. 

Risks and Complications: As with any surgery, there is a risk of infection or blood clots. You should also avoid lifting heavy weights overhead with the weight behind your head, or you risk reinjuring your shoulder. 

Summary: You should seek out an experienced orthopedic surgeon to perform your shoulder arthroplasty. This clinician should not only be skilled at performing the surgery but also have the ability to accurately assess the extent of the damage prior to surgery.