What to Expect

Shoulder replacement is performed in the hospital by an experienced, specialized surgical team. The procedure generally takes 1-3 hours, and a hospital stay of 1-3 days can be expected.

Most people are able to return to normal everyday activities such as dressing themselves and grooming within the first two weeks after successful shoulder replacement surgery. Your physician will let you know when it is safe to drive and perform other tasks.

Total recovery time is approximately 3-6 months, and physical therapy is required to gain range of motion with the new joint.

As with any surgery, success will depend on your age, activity level and other factors. Your doctor will determine if you are a good candidate for shoulder replacement surgery, and can help you understand what to expect from the procedure and your recovery.

What You Need to Know About Surgery

If you are considering shoulder joint replacement, you probably have many questions about preparing for surgery, the surgical procedure, the recovery, and your long-term outcome. You should consult with your shoulder specialist about what to expect before and after surgery based on your specific condition. Some common concerns and questions from patients are listed here. Also visit the Questions & Answers section of this Web site for more information.

Meeting with the Orthopedic Surgeon

  • Bring your primary care physician’s name and contact information with you.
  • Bring any tests you’ve had previously done to assess your symptoms and condition (X-rays, MRI and medical records related to your shoulder).
  • Bring a list of your medical conditions, health problems and all previous operations.
  • Note any allergies or adverse reactions you’ve had to drugs or anesthesia.
  • Note any dietary restrictions.
  • Clearance (by your physician) for surgery must be sent to the orthopaedic surgeon.
  • The surgeon will perform an orthopaedic exam for assessment of pain level and range of motion.


Weeks Before Surgery

Pick up any throw rugs or other items that my be easily tripped over.
Arrange items that you will use regularly so they are within low reach (telephone, radio, TV remote, bathing items, plates and drinking glasses, medications, etc.). Many of these items may already be in appropriate locations depending on your lack of shoulder mobility before surgery. Prepare and freeze a few weeks worth of meals that can be easily re-heated.

If You Live Alone or Have Special Needs

  • You may need to transfer to a rehabilitation facility after discharge. Ask your doctor or hospital staff for help.
  • Arrange for someone to drive you home and possibly stay at your home for a few days.
  • If you use a walker or wheelchair, you will need to arrange for other means of mobility (e.g., motorized chair) or additional help until your shoulder is strong enough.

Morning of Surgery

  • Do not drink any liquids, including water or ice chips–you may brush your teeth but do not swallow any water.
  • Make sure you empty your bladder.
  • An intervenous (I.V.) line will be started by the nurse to administer medications before or during the surgery.
  • A medication may be given to help you relax and to dry your mouth and sinuses.
  • You will be transferred to a stretcher prior to going to the operating room.
  • The anesthesiologist will meet with you to discuss the type of anesthesia to be used.

During Surgery

  • A small incision is made over the front part of the shoulder (4-8 inches long from the collarbone to the point where the deltoid muscle is attached to the upper arm bone).
  • Surgeons take great care to avoid tearing muscles or injuring nerves or blood vessels. The implants come in a variety of sizes and the surgeon fits the prothesis to the patient.
  • Please consult your physician for your estimated recovery and rehabilitation protocol.