What Is Reverse Shoulder Replacement Surgery? - UPMC

What Is Reverse Shoulder Replacement Surgery?

Do you have shoulder pain that keeps you up at night? Has it gotten difficult to comb your hair or reach up to the top shelf?

Rotator cuff injuries are a common cause of shoulder pain, and new surgical options give you choices for treating even severe injuries. Depending upon your physician’s recommendations, you may opt for traditional shoulder replacement or a newer procedure known as a reverse shoulder replacement.

How the Shoulder Works

Your shoulder joint is made up of three bones:

  • The collarbone
  • The shoulder bone
  • The bone of your upper arm

The head of your upper arm bone fits into a hollow in the shoulder bone — that forms the ball and socket you’ve probably heard of before. A group of four muscles, along with tendons, surround the joint and keep your arm steady. These muscles are your rotator cuff.

Rotator cuff injury causes

Repetitive arm motion, arthritis, and certain sports can lead to rotator cuff injuries. Arthritis compounds the pain and difficulty of a rotator cuff injury.

What Is Shoulder Surgery?

When the pain becomes severe or you lose most of your mobility in your shoulder, your physician may recommend shoulder replacement surgery.

You have two shoulder surgery options:

  • Traditional total shoulder replacement, which replaces the arm bone and the shoulder socket
  • Newer reverse shoulder replacement

What Is a Reverse Shoulder Replacement?

In reverse shoulder replacement surgery, the ball is replaced with a socket, and the socket is replaced with a ball. A rounded joint piece, the ball, is attached to the shoulder bone, and a cup-shaped piece, the socket, replaces the top of the arm bone.

Who is a candidate for reverse shoulder replacement surgery?

Your physician may recommend this surgery if you have severe damage to your rotator cuff or the muscles don’t work properly, as with cases of rheumatoid arthritis. In a traditional shoulder replacement, the limited range of your rotator cuff would also affect the movement you can regain after surgery.

With the reverse shoulder replacement, your deltoid muscle, the large muscle group that forms the contour of your shoulder, is used to move your arm. You may be able to regain more overhead reach with this surgery than the traditional.

Reverse shoulder replacements now make up about half of all shoulder replacement surgeries.

As with any major surgery, it will take months to recover along with a rigorous rehabilitation program. Physical therapy after surgery will help you lift your arm and regain as much ability to reach overhead as possible.

For more information on joint replacement options, make an appointment to see one of our consultant orthopaedic surgeons at UPMC Whitfield, UPMC Kildare, or UPMC Aut Even.

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