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Reverse Shoulder Arthroplasty 

There are many things that can go wrong with the shoulder joint, which has the greatest range of motion of any joint in the human body. For this reason, there are several different procedures for shoulder replacement surgery (arthroplasty). This typically involves replacing the humeral ball joint (located on the arm) by itself or along with the socket at the shoulder blade. But in some instances, the most effective way to fix a problem is to switch the two around. This is known as reverse shoulder arthroplasty. 

Conditions Treated

Reasons for a patient to undergo shoulder replacement surgery include various forms of arthritis or necrosis, fractures, pain from a prior surgery and effects of a rotator cuff tear. Reverse shoulder arthroplasty is primarily used to treat patients who are experiencing serious issues stemming from rotator cuff tear arthropathy—which is a form of arthritis that develops following a severe tear. If the tear itself cannot be fixed, the reverse arthroplasty comes into play. 

About The Procedure 

In reverse shoulder arthroplasty, a surgeon will attach a ball to the existing socket joint at the shoulder blade, remove the upper part of the arm bone and replace that with a metal part containing the new socket. The ball and socket joint locations are surgically switched because the injured rotator cuff would otherwise keep the joint from functioning properly. This procedure forces the deltoid muscle (which is attached to the collarbone, shoulder blade and upper arm bone) to do much of the work originally performed by the rotator cuff, restoring joint function.

What to Expect 

Reverse shoulder arthroplasty takes three to five hours to complete and, because the bones will need time to heal around the implants, shoulder movement will be very limited for days to weeks after the procedure.  

As with any surgery, there are risks associated with this procedure, including: 

  • Dislocation 
  • Infection 
  • Nerve damage 
  • Blood clots 

Effectiveness 

While the procedure will not completely restore a patient’s range of motion, it has proven highly effective at providing pain relief and improving one’s range of motion to some degree. Patients can expect to fully recover within four months, and their implant should last around 15 years before it would need to be fixed or replaced with revision surgery. The shoulder replacement program at Tampa General Hospital’s Orthopaedic Institute uses cutting-edge technology to achieve world-class results for patients.