Total Shoulder Replacement

Your shoulder joint

Your shoulder is made up of three bones:

  • The collar bone, or clavicle (KLAV-ick-ol)
  • The shoulder blade, or scapula (SKAPyou-luh)
  • The bone of the upper arm, or humerus(HYOO-mer-es)

The rounded end of the humerus is called the head. The head fits into a hollow in the scapula. The hollow is called the glenoid (GLEE-noid). The head and glenoid fit together like a ball and socket and form the shoulder joint.

Why you need surgery

Usually arthritis or a fracture makes surgery necessary. Arthritis can wear down the head of the humerus over time. A fracture can break the head into many pieces. Shoulder replacement surgery replaces the head of the humerus.

During your surgery

During surgery, the head of the humerus is removed. A metal ball that is shaped like the head of the humerus is inserted into the glenoid. The metal ball is called a prosthesis (pross-THEE-sis). A prosthesis is an artificial part. A plastic prosthesis shaped like a cup is inserted into the glenoid. Both artificial parts are fit together. Then the incision is closed and a sterile dressing is put on.

After your surgery

The following list tells you what you need to know and do after your surgery.


  • Your doctor will prescribe pain medicine for you.
  • Your doctor also may tell you to put ice packs on your shoulder.

Care of your incision

  • If you have a dressing over your incision, keep the dressing clean and dry.
  • If your incision is open to the air, keep the area clean and dry.
  • If Steri-Strips tape covers your incision, keep the Steri-Strips clean and dry. They will peel off on their own.
  • Do not put any lotion or ointment on your incision, unless your doctor says you may.

To prevent movement

  • Your doctor may prescribe that you wear a sling. Wearing a sling helps to keep the
    shoulder joint from moving. Your doctor will tell you how long you need to wear the sling.
  • If you wear a sling, your arm should be at a 90-degree angle at the elbow. Your wrist and hand should be supported by the sling. Do not allow your wrist and hand to hang over the sling.

Skin care

  • It is important to keep your underarm area clean and dry.
  • Gently clean the underarm area daily with soap and water.
  • Ask your doctor when you are allowed to shower. Until then, you should take a sponge bath (not a tub bath).


  • Do not lift with your affected arm until your doctor says you may. Your doctor will tell you how much you can safely lift.
  • Your doctor will talk to you about a program of rehabilitation and exercise. Your doctor will tell you when to start doing your exercises.
  • Your doctor may order a CPM machine to help you move your shoulder. CPM stands for continuous passive motion. If CPM is ordered, your nurse will explain how the machine works.

When to call the doctor

If you have any of the following, call your doctor:

  • Fever of 101° F (38.3° C) or above
  • Redness, warmth, or swelling of your incision
  • Increase in drainage from your incision
  • Increase in pain
  • Numbness, tingling, or a bluish color in your fingers or hand

Questions or concerns

If you have any questions or concerns, contact:




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