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Shoulder Arthroplasty


Shoulder arthroplasty is surgery to replace the shoulder joint. The shoulder joint includes the humerus (upper arm) and the scapula (shoulder blade). Healthcare providers use a prosthetic (artificial) implant for the replacement.


The week before your surgery:

  • Arrange a ride home. Ask a family member or friend to drive you home after your surgery or procedure. Do not drive yourself home.
  • Ask your caregiver if you need to stop using aspirin or any other prescribed or over-the-counter medicine before your procedure or surgery.
  • Bring your medicine bottles or a list of your medicines when you see your caregiver. Tell your caregiver if you are allergic to any medicine. Tell your caregiver if you use any herbs, food supplements, or over-the-counter medicine.
  • Tell your caregiver if you know or think you might be pregnant.
  • You may need to have some of your blood stored in case you need it during or after your surgery. Healthcare providers will tell you when you need to come in to have your blood drawn.
  • You may need to have blood tests, x-rays, nerve conduction studies, and other tests. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about these and other tests that you may need. Write down the date, time, and location of each test.
  • Write down the correct date, time, and location of your surgery.

The night before your surgery:

  • You may be given medicine to help you sleep.
  • Ask caregivers about directions for eating and drinking.

The day of your surgery:

  • You or a close family member will be asked to sign a legal document called a consent form. It gives caregivers permission to do the procedure or surgery. It also explains the problems that may happen, and your choices. Make sure all your questions are answered before you sign this form.
  • Ask your caregiver before taking any medicine on the day of your procedure. These medicines include insulin, diabetic pills, high blood pressure pills, or heart pills. Bring a list of all the medicines you take, or your pill bottles, with you to the hospital.
  • Do not wear contact lenses on the day of your surgery. You may wear glasses.
  • Caregivers may insert an intravenous tube (IV) into your vein. A vein in the arm is usually chosen. Through the IV tube, you may be given liquids and medicine.
  • An anesthesiologist will talk to you before your surgery. You may need medicine to keep you asleep or numb an area of your body during surgery. Tell caregivers if you or anyone in your family has had a problem with anesthesia in the past.


What will happen:

  • General or regional anesthesia may be given to keep you free from pain during the surgery. Healthcare providers will make an incision in the front of your shoulder and remove the ball (top) of your humerus. The shaft (inside of your humerus) will be cleaned out so the prosthetic stem can be put inside. If the socket will also be replaced, holes will be made into your scapula to attach the implant. Surgical cement may be used to hold the socket and stem in place.
  • Thin tubes may be put into your skin to drain blood from your incision. The incision will be closed with stitches, except where the tube is placed, and covered with bandages. A sling or splint may be placed to keep your shoulder joint from moving.

After surgery:

You are taken to a room where your heart and breathing will be monitored. Do not get out of bed until your healthcare provider says it is okay. A bandage may cover your incision wounds to help prevent infection. When healthcare providers see that you are okay, you may be able to go home. Someone will need to drive you home and stay with you for 24 hours. If you cannot go home, you will be taken to a hospital room.


  • You cannot make it to surgery on time.
  • You have a fever.
  • You have a skin infection or an infected wound near the injured shoulder.
  • You have questions or concerns about your surgery.

Seek Care Immediately if

  • The problems for which you are having the shoulder arthroplasty get worse.
  • Your pain becomes severe, or you have trouble moving your shoulder.


Surgery may cause you to bleed more than expected or to develop an infection. Other parts of the shoulder, such as nerves, blood vessels, ligaments, muscles, and bones may be damaged. Your shoulder may become stiff, numb, and more painful. The implant may be placed incorrectly. It may loosen or break, and bone spurs may form. Even after successful surgery, your shoulder movement may not be the same as it was before. You may have trouble going back to your usual activities, including sports. If left untreated, the pain and problems you have with your shoulder may get worse.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.