Is Shoulder Replacement Surgery Right for You?

Wednesday, Aug 10, 2016
Is Shoulder Replacement Surgery Right for You?

"I couldn't lift my arm above my waist or hug my grandchildren," says Catherine, a retired office manager. "Dishes were stacked on the counter because I couldn't reach the cabinets. I was in pain day and night. There was no comfortable position."

Though Catherine found intermittent relief through physical therapy and anti-inflammatory cortisone injections, the time came when these first-line therapies no longer alleviated her discomfort. Her orthopedic surgeon, Kieran Cody, MD, recommended total shoulder replacement surgery.

It Starts with a Conversation

"I had never heard of shoulder replacement, and I was afraid that it wouldn't work," says Catherine. "I wasn't ready, and Dr. Cody understood."

"The decision as to what treatment is right for the patient is based on a conversation," says Dr. Cody. "Talking with my patients is more important to me than even an X-ray. It helps me understand how pain impacts the individual, what their goals are and how to best achieve those goals."

In 2015, Catherine told Dr. Cody she was ready for surgery. Her rotator cuff was damaged, so a reverse total shoulder replacement was her best option. In this procedure, Dr. Cody replaced her shoulder in a way that allows the shoulder to move despite her rotator cuff tear, restoring Catherine's ability to comfortably move her hand and arm.

Total Shoulder Replacement Program

The Total Shoulder Replacement Program at Doylestown Health's Orthopedic Institute offers patients the latest medical advances and a personal connection with their fellowship- trained surgeon and team.

"Dr. Cody was amazing, and the orthopedic navigator was with me every step of the way," says Catherine. "She told me what to expect and even got me started with physical therapy to strengthen my muscles before surgery." The navigator also pre- arranged home care nursing to check Catherine's progress after she left the hospital.

"The Total Shoulder Replacement Program offers patients the opportunity to understand their procedure, recovery process and physical therapy prior to the surgery. I think that really helps decrease anxiety and improves results after surgery," says Dr. Cody. "It's a comprehensive program with the patient very well taken care of by all members of the team."

Recovering from Shoulder Replacement Surgery

A year after surgery, Catherine is still astonished by the results. "After my recovery, I have no pain! I can put dishes in cabinets, give and receive hugs and steer my lawnmower," says Catherine. "I can't thank Dr. Cody enough."

The Amazing Shoulder

The shoulder is the most complex joint in the body. Every time we wave, pick up a spoon, brush our teeth or cradle a baby, we rely on this intricate structure.

Arthritis pain in the shoulder that is caused by mechanical wear and tear on the joint is called osteoarthritis. This condition impedes the ability to raise the arms and position the hands, and is the most common reason for total shoulder replacement. Osteoarthritis is most prevalent in people aged 60 to 80, says Dr. Cody, though a sports injury can lead to early shoulder arthritis.

Before shoulder replacement surgery, treatment options include:

  • Anti-inflammatory medication via pills or injection
  • Physical therapy to improve range of motion and shoulder strength
  • Avoiding activities that make the shoulder hurt

When arthritis keeps a patient from activities of daily living, self-care (brushing hair, dressing), or from doing what they love, it's time to consider total shoulder replacement.

Shoulder replacement procedures include:

  • Total Shoulder Replacement – If the rotator cuff is working, then replacing both the ball of the upper arm bone (humerus) and the socket (glenoid) with a plastic cup is the best option.
  • Reverse Total Shoulder Replacement – If the rotator cuff is not working, a more complex procedure, replacing the ball and socket in a way that also replaces rotator cuff function, enables a patient to raise his or her hand.
  • Hemiarthroplasty – Replacing the ball of the upper arm bone (humerus).

Patients typically spend one night in the hospital. Care is taken to ensure their pain is managed, and home care nursing and occupational therapy are arranged, when needed.

Learn more about shoulder and joint replacement

About Doylestown Health's Orthopedic Institute

For joint repair and replacement, spine and hand surgery, sports medicine and osteoporosis care, you’ll find Doylestown Health’s Orthopedic Institute is the perfect fit. With same and next day appointments available, our board-certified and fellowship-trained physicians treat all types of bone and muscle conditions. And for eligible joint replacement patients, our rapid recovery program helps patients return to the activities they love – faster.

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