Joint Replacement FAQ

What is joint replacement?

Answer: Total joint replacement is a surgical procedure in which parts of an arthritic or damaged joint are removed and replaced with a metal, plastic, or ceramic device called a prosthesis. The prosthesis is designed to replicate the movement of a normal, healthy joint.

Hip and knee replacements are the most commonly performed joint replacements, but replacement surgery can be performed on other joints, as well, including the ankle, wrist, shoulder, and elbow.

Does Medicare pay for joint replacement surgery?

Answer: Getting a joint replaced requires surgery. And since Medicare only covers surgical procedures that are deemed medically necessary, your joint replacement surgery must be deemed medically necessary by your doctor for Medicare to cover it.

When is joint replacement recommended?

Answer: Several conditions can cause joint pain and disability and lead patients to consider joint replacement surgery. In many cases, joint pain is caused by damage to the cartilage that lines the ends of the bones (articular cartilage)—either from arthritis, a fracture, or another condition.

If nonsurgical treatments like medications, physical therapy, and activity modifications do not relieve your pain and disability, your doctor may recommend total joint replacement.

What are joint replacement surgery risks?

Answer: Your doctor will explain the potential risks and complications of total joint replacement, including those related to the surgery itself and those that can occur over time after your surgery.

Most complications can be treated successfully. Some of the more common complications of joint replacement surgery include infection, blood clots, nerve injury, and prosthesis problems like loosening or dislocation.

What causes hip pain?

Answer: If your hip has been damaged by arthritis, a fracture, or other conditions, common activities such as walking or getting in and out of a chair may be painful and difficult. Your hip may be stiff, and it may be hard to put on your shoes and socks. You may even feel uncomfortable while resting.

If medications, changes in your everyday activities, and the use of walking supports do not adequately help your symptoms, you may consider hip replacement surgery. Hip replacement surgery is a safe and effective procedure that can relieve your pain, increase motion, and help you get back to enjoying everyday activities.

Hip replacement surgery is one of the most successful operations in all of medicine. Since the early 1960s, improvements in joint replacement surgical techniques and technology have greatly increased the effectiveness of total hip replacement. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, more than 450,000 total hip replacements are performed each year in the United States.

What happens during hip replacement surgery?

Answer: In a total hip replacement (also called total hip arthroplasty), the damaged bone and cartilage are removed and replaced with prosthetic components.

  • The damaged femoral head is removed and replaced with a metal stem that is placed into the hollow center of the femur. The femoral stem may be either cemented or “press-fit” into the bone.
  • A metal or ceramic ball is placed on the upper part of the stem. This ball replaces the damaged femoral head that was removed.
  • The damaged cartilage surface of the socket (acetabulum) is removed and replaced with a metal socket. Screws or cement are sometimes used to hold the socket in place.
  • A plastic, ceramic, or metal spacer is inserted between the new ball and the socket to allow for a smooth gliding surface.

How long does joint replacement surgery take?

Answer: Total joint replacement surgery takes a few hours. The procedure is performed in a hospital or outpatient surgery center.

During the surgery, the damaged cartilage and bone are removed from your joint and replaced with prosthetic components made of metal, plastic, or ceramic. The prosthesis mimics the shape and movement of a natural joint. For example, in an arthritic hip, the damaged ball (the upper end of the femur) is replaced with a metal ball attached to a metal stem that is fitted into the femur, and a plastic socket is implanted into the pelvis, replacing the damaged socket.

What precautions should I take after hip replacement surgery?

Answer: Recognizing the Signs of a Blood Clot

Follow your orthopedic surgeon’s instructions carefully to reduce the risk of blood clots developing during the first several weeks of your recovery. He or she may recommend that you continue taking the blood-thinning medication you started in the hospital. Notify your doctor immediately if you develop any of the following warning signs.

Warning signs of blood clots. The warning signs of a possible blood clot in your leg include:

  • Pain in your calf and leg that is unrelated to your incision
  • Tenderness or redness of your calf
  • New or increasing swelling of your thigh, calf, ankle, or foot

Warning signs of pulmonary embolism. The warning signs that a blood clot has traveled to your lung include:

  • Sudden shortness of breath
  • Sudden onset of chest pain
  • Localized chest pain with coughing

Preventing Infection

A common cause of infection following hip replacement surgery is bacteria that enter the bloodstream during dental procedures, urinary tract infections, or skin infections.

Following surgery, patients with certain risk factors may need to take antibiotics before dental work, including dental cleanings, or before any surgical procedure that could allow bacteria to enter your bloodstream. Your orthopedic surgeon will discuss with you whether taking preventive antibiotics before dental procedures are needed in your situation.

Warning signs of infection. Notify your doctor immediately if you develop any of the following signs of a possible hip replacement infection:

  • Persistent fever (higher than 100°F orally)
  • Chills
  • Increasing redness, tenderness, or swelling of the hip wound
  • Drainage from the hip wound
  • Increasing hip pain with both activity and rest

Avoiding Falls

A fall during the first few weeks after surgery can damage your new hip and may result in a need for more surgery. Stairs are a particular hazard until your hip is strong and mobile. You should use a cane, crutches, a walker, or handrails or have someone help you until you improve your balance, flexibility, and strength.

Your orthopedic surgeon and physical therapist will help you decide which assistive aides will be required following surgery, and when those aides can safely be discontinued.

Other Precautions

To assure proper recovery and prevent dislocation of the prosthesis, you may be asked to take special precautions when sitting, bending, or sleeping — usually for the first 6 weeks after surgery. These precautions will vary from patient to patient, depending on the surgical approach your surgeon used to perform your hip replacement.

Your surgeon and physical therapist will provide you with any specific precautions you should follow.

When do I need hip replacement surgery?

Answer: If your hip has been damaged by arthritis, a fracture, or other conditions, common activities such as walking or getting in and out of a chair may be painful and difficult. Your hip may be stiff, and it may be hard to put on your shoes and socks. You may even feel uncomfortable while resting.

If medications, changes in your everyday activities, and the use of walking supports do not adequately help your symptoms, you may consider hip replacement surgery. Hip replacement surgery is a safe and effective procedure that can relieve your pain, increase motion, and help you get back to enjoying normal activities.

Hip replacement surgery is one of the most successful operations in all of medicine. Since the early 1960s, improvements in joint replacement surgical techniques and technology have greatly increased the effectiveness of total hip replacement. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, more than 450,000 total hip replacements are performed each year in the United States.

What is the recovery time for hip replacement surgery?

Answer: The success of your surgery will depend in large measure on how well you follow your orthopedic surgeon’s instructions regarding home care during the first few weeks after surgery.

Pain Management

Medications are often prescribed for short-term pain relief after surgery. Many types of medicines are available to help manage pain, including opioids, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), acetaminophen, and local anesthetics. Your doctor may use a combination of these medications to improve pain relief, as well as minimize the need for opioids.

Be aware that, although opioids help relieve pain after surgery, they are a narcotic and can be addictive. Opioid dependency and overdose have become critical public health issues in the U.S. It is important to use opioids only as directed by your doctor. As soon as your pain begins to improve, stop taking opioids. Talk to your doctor if your pain has not begun to improve within a few days of your surgery.

Wound Care

You may have stitches or staples running along your wound or a suture beneath your skin. The stitches or staples will be removed approximately 2 weeks after surgery.

Diet

Some loss of appetite is common for several weeks after surgery. A balanced diet, often with an iron supplement, is important to promote proper tissue healing and restore muscle strength. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids.

Activity

Exercise is a critical component of home care, particularly during the first few weeks after surgery. You should be able to resume most normal light activities of daily living within 3 to 6 weeks following surgery. Some discomfort with activity and at night is common for several weeks.

Your activity program should include:

  • A graduated walking program to slowly increase your mobility, initially in your home and later outside
  • Resuming other normal household activities, such as sitting, standing, and climbing stairs
  • Specific exercises several times a day to restore movement and strengthen your hip. You probably will be able to perform the exercises without help, but you may have a physical therapist help you at home or in a therapy center the first few weeks after surgery

When do I need a total knee replacement?

Answer: If your knee is severely damaged by arthritis or injury, it may be hard for you to perform simple activities, such as walking or climbing stairs. You may even begin to feel pain while you are sitting or lying down.

If nonsurgical treatments like medications and using walking supports are no longer helpful, you may want to consider total knee replacement surgery. Joint replacement surgery is a safe and effective procedure to relieve pain, correct leg deformity, and help you resume normal activities.

Knee replacement surgery was first performed in 1968. Since then, improvements in surgical materials and techniques have greatly increased its effectiveness. Total knee replacements are one of the most successful procedures in medicine. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, in 2017, more than 754,000 knee replacements were performed in the United States.

There are several reasons why your doctor may recommend knee replacement surgery. People who benefit from total knee replacement often have:

  • Severe knee pain or stiffness that limits everyday activities, including walking, climbing stairs, and getting in and out of chairs. It may be hard to walk more than a few blocks without significant pain and it may be necessary to use a cane or walker
  • Moderate or severe knee pain while resting, either day or night
  • Chronic knee inflammation and swelling that does not improve with rest or medications
  • Knee deformity — a bowing in or out of the knee
  • Failure to substantially improve with other treatments such as anti-inflammatory medications, cortisone injections, lubricating injections, physical therapy, or other surgeries

What happens during knee replacement surgery?

Answer: A knee replacement (also called knee arthroplasty) might be more accurately termed a knee “resurfacing” because only the surfaces of the bones are replaced.

There are four basic steps to a knee replacement procedure:

  • Prepare the bone.The damaged cartilage surfaces at the ends of the femur and tibia are removed along with a small amount of underlying bone.
  • Position the metal implants.The removed cartilage and bone are replaced with metal components that recreate the surface of the joint. These metal parts may be cemented or “press-fit” into the bone.
  • Resurface the patella.The undersurface of the patella (kneecap) is cut and resurfaced with a plastic button. Some surgeons do not resurface the patella, depending upon the case.
  • Insert a spacer.A medical-grade plastic spacer is inserted between the metal components to create a smooth gliding surface.

What should I expect after knee replacement surgery?

Answer: An important factor in deciding whether to have total knee replacement surgery is understanding what the procedure can and cannot do.

Most people who have total knee replacement surgery experience a dramatic reduction of knee pain and a significant improvement in the ability to perform common activities of daily living. But total knee replacement will not allow you to do more than you could before you developed arthritis.

With normal use and activity, every knee replacement implant begins to wear in its plastic spacer. Excessive activity or weight may speed up this normal wear and may cause the knee replacement to loosen and become painful. Therefore, most surgeons advise against high-impact activities such as running, jogging, jumping, or other high-impact sports for the rest of your life after surgery.

Realistic activities following total knee replacement include unlimited walking, swimming, golf, driving, light hiking, biking, ballroom dancing, and other low-impact sports.

With appropriate activity modification, knee replacements can last for many years.

What are the possible complications from knee replacement surgery?

Answer: The complication rate following a total knee replacement is low. Serious complications, such as a knee joint infection, occur in fewer than 2% of patients. Major medical complications such as heart attack or stroke occur even less frequently. Chronic illnesses may increase the potential for complications. Although uncommon, when these complications occur, they can prolong or limit full recovery.

Discuss your concerns thoroughly with your orthopedic surgeon before surgery.

Infection. Infection may occur in the wound or deep around the prosthesis. It may happen within days or weeks of your surgery. It may even occur years later. Minor infections in the wound area are generally treated with antibiotics. Major or deep infections may require more surgery and removal of the prosthesis. Any infection in your body can spread to your joint replacement.

Blood clots

Blood clots in the leg veins are one of the most common complications of knee replacement surgery. These clots can be life-threatening if they break free and travel to your lungs. Your orthopedic surgeon will outline a prevention program, which may include periodic elevation of your legs, lower leg exercises to increase circulation, support stockings, and medication to thin your blood.

Implant problems

Although implant designs and materials, as well as surgical techniques, continue to advance, implant surfaces may wear down and the components may loosen. Additionally, although an average of 115° of motion is generally anticipated after surgery, scarring of the knee can occasionally occur, and motion may be more limited, particularly in patients who had limited motion before surgery.

Continued pain. A small number of patients continue to have pain after a knee replacement. This complication is rare, however, and most patients experience excellent pain relief following knee replacement.

Neurovascular injury. While rare, injury to the nerves or blood vessels around the knee can occur during surgery.

What should do to prepare for knee replacement surgery?

Answer: Social Planning

Although you will be able to walk with a cane, crutches, or a walker soon after surgery, you will need help for several weeks with such tasks as cooking, shopping, bathing, and doing laundry.

If you live alone, a social worker or a discharge planner at the hospital can help you make advance arrangements to have someone assist you at home.

Home Planning

Several modifications can make your home easier to navigate during your recovery. The following items may help with daily activities:

  • Safety bars or a secure handrail in your shower or bath
  • Secure handrails along your stairways
  • A stable chair for your early recovery with a firm seat cushion (and a height of 18 to 20 inches), a firm back, two arms, and a footstool for intermittent leg elevation
  • A toilet seat riser with arms, if you have a low toilet
  • A stable shower bench or chair for bathing
  • Removing all loose carpets and cords
  • A temporary living space on the same floor because walking up or down stairs will be more difficult during your early recovery

How long does it take to recover from knee replacement surgery?

Answer: The success of your surgery will depend largely on how well you follow your orthopedic surgeon’s instructions at home during the first few weeks after surgery.

Wound Care

The surgeon will provide specific instructions regarding care of the incision and dressing.

Diet

Some loss of appetite is common for several weeks after surgery. A balanced diet, often with an iron supplement, is important to help your wound heal and restore muscle strength.

Activity

Exercise is a critical component of home care, particularly during the first few weeks after surgery. You should be able to resume most normal activities of daily living within 3 to 6 weeks following surgery. Some pain with activity and at night is common for several weeks after surgery.

Your activity program should include:

  • A graduated walking program to slowly increase your mobility, initially in your home and later outside
  • Resuming other normal household activities, such as sitting, standing, and climbing stairs
  • Specific exercises several times a day to restore movement and strengthen your knee. You probably will be able to perform the exercises without help, but you may have a physical therapist help you at home or in a therapy center the first few weeks after surgery.

How will my new knee feel?

Answer: How Your New Knee Is Different

Improvement of knee motion is a goal of total knee replacement, but restoration of full motion is uncommon. The motion of your knee replacement after surgery can be predicted by the range of motion you have in your knee before surgery. Most patients can expect to be able to almost fully straighten the replaced knee and to bend the knee sufficiently to climb stairs and get in and out of a car. Kneeling is sometimes uncomfortable, but it is not harmful.

Most people feel some numbness in the skin around your incision. You also may feel some stiffness, particularly with excessive bending activities.

Most people also feel or hear some clicking of the metal and plastic with knee bending or walking. This is normal. These differences often diminish with time and most patients find them to be tolerable when compared with the pain and limited function they experienced before surgery.

Your new knee may activate metal detectors required for security in airports and some buildings. Tell the security agent about your knee replacement if the alarm is activated.

How do I protect my new knee?

Answer: After surgery, make sure you also do the following:

  • Participate in regular light exercise programs to maintain proper strength and mobility of your new knee.
  • Take special precautions to avoid falls and injuries. If you break a bone in your leg, you may require more surgery.
  • Make sure your dentist knows that you have a knee replacement. Talk with your orthopedic surgeon about whether you need to take antibiotics before dental procedures.
  • See your orthopedic surgeon periodically for a routine follow-up examination and x-rays. Your surgeon will talk with you about the frequency and timing of these visits.

Extending the Life of Your Knee Implant

Currently, more than 90% of modern total knee replacements are still functioning well 15 years after the surgery. Following your orthopedic surgeon’s instructions after surgery and taking care to protect your knee replacement and your general health are important ways you can contribute to the final success of your surgery.

How common is shoulder replacement?

Answer: Although shoulder joint replacement is less common than knee or hip replacement, it is just as successful in relieving joint pain.

Shoulder replacement surgery was first performed in the United States in the 1950s to treat severe shoulder fractures. Over the years, shoulder joint replacement has come to be used for many other painful conditions of the shoulder, such as different forms of arthritis.

Today, about 53,000 people in the U.S. have shoulder replacement surgery each year, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. This compares to more than 900,000 Americans a year who have knee and hip replacement surgery.

If nonsurgical treatments like medications and activity changes are no longer helpful for relieving pain, you may want to consider shoulder joint replacement surgery. Joint replacement surgery is a safe and effective procedure to relieve pain and help you resume everyday activities.

What can lead to the need for shoulder replacement?

Answer: Several conditions can cause shoulder pain and disability, and lead patients to consider shoulder joint replacement surgery.

Osteoarthritis (Degenerative Joint Disease)

This is an age-related “wear and tear” type of arthritis. It usually occurs in people 50 years of age and older, but may occur in younger people, too. The cartilage that cushions the bones of the shoulder softens and wears away. The bones then rub against one another. Over time, the shoulder joint slowly becomes stiff and painful.

Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent the development of osteoarthritis. It is a common reason people have shoulder replacement surgery.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

This is a disease in which the synovial membrane that surrounds the joint becomes inflamed and thickened. This chronic inflammation can damage the cartilage and eventually cause cartilage loss, pain, and stiffness. Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common form of a group of disorders termed “inflammatory arthritis.”

Post-traumatic Arthritis

This can follow a serious shoulder injury. Fractures of the bones that make up the shoulder or tears of the shoulder tendons or ligaments may damage the articular cartilage over time. This causes shoulder pain and limits shoulder function.

Rotator Cuff Tear Arthropathy

A patient with a very large, long-standing rotator cuff tear may develop cuff tear arthropathy. In this condition, the changes in the shoulder joint due to the rotator cuff tear may lead to arthritis and the destruction of the joint cartilage.

Avascular Necrosis (Osteonecrosis)

Avascular necrosis is a painful condition that occurs when the blood supply to the bone is disrupted. Because bone cells die without a blood supply, osteonecrosis can ultimately destroy the shoulder joint and lead to arthritis. Chronic steroid use, deep-sea diving, severe fracture of the shoulder, sickle cell disease, and heavy alcohol use are risk factors for avascular necrosis.

Severe Fractures

A severe fracture of the shoulder is another common reason people have shoulder replacements. When the head of the upper arm bone is shattered, it may be very difficult for a doctor to put the pieces of bone back in place. In addition, the blood supply to the bone pieces can be interrupted. In this case, a surgeon may recommend a shoulder replacement. Older patients with osteoporosis are most at risk for severe shoulder fractures.

Failed Previous Shoulder Replacement Surgery

Although uncommon, some shoulder replacements fail, most often because of implant loosening, wear, infection, and dislocation. When this occurs, a second joint replacement surgery — called a revision surgery — may be necessary.

Is shoulder replacement right for me?

Answer: The decision to have shoulder replacement surgery should be a cooperative one between you, your family, your family physician, and your orthopedic surgeon.

There are several reasons why your doctor may recommend shoulder replacement surgery. People who benefit from surgery often have:

  • Severe shoulder pain that interferes with everyday activities, such as reaching into a cabinet, dressing, toileting, and washing.
  • Moderate to severe pain while resting. This pain may be severe enough to prevent a good night’s sleep.
  • Loss of motion and/or weakness in the shoulder.
  • Failure to substantially improve with other treatments such as anti-inflammatory medications, cortisone injections, or physical therapy.

What are the shoulder replacement options?

Answer: Shoulder replacement surgery is highly technical. It should be performed by a surgical team with experience in this procedure.

There are different types of shoulder replacements. Your surgeon will evaluate your situation carefully before making any decisions. He or she will discuss with you which type of replacement would best meet your health needs. Do not hesitate to ask what type of implant will be used in your situation, and why that choice is right for you.

Total Shoulder Replacement

The typical total shoulder replacement involves replacing the arthritic joint surfaces with a highly polished metal ball attached to a stem, and a plastic socket.

These components come in various sizes. They may be either cemented or “press-fit” into the bone. If the bone is of good quality, your surgeon may choose to use a non-cemented (press-fit) humeral component. If the bone is soft, the humeral component may be implanted with bone cement. In most cases, an all-plastic glenoid (socket) component is implanted with bone cement.

Implantation of a glenoid component is not advised if:

  • The glenoid has good cartilage
  • The glenoid bone is severely deficient
  • The rotator cuff tendons are irreparably torn

Patients with bone-on-bone osteoarthritis and intact rotator cuff tendons are generally good candidates for conventional total shoulder replacement.

Stemmed Hemiarthroplasty

Depending on the condition of your shoulder, your surgeon may replace only the ball. This procedure is called hemiarthroplasty. In a traditional hemiarthroplasty, the head of the humerus is replaced with a metal ball and stem, similar to the component used in a total shoulder replacement. This is called a stemmed hemiarthroplasty.

Some surgeons recommend hemiarthroplasty when the humeral head is severely fractured but the socket is normal. Other indications for a hemiarthroplasty include:

  • Arthritis that only involves the head of the humerus with a glenoid that has a healthy and intact cartilage surface
  • Shoulders with severely weakened bone in the glenoid
  • Some shoulders with severely torn rotator cuff tendons and arthritis

Sometimes, surgeons decide between a total shoulder replacement and a hemiarthroplasty in the operating room at the time of the surgery.

Studies show that patients with osteoarthritis get better pain relief from total shoulder arthroplasty than from hemiarthroplasty.

Resurfacing Hemiarthroplasty

Resurfacing hemiarthroplasty involves replacing just the joint surface of the humeral head with a cap-like prosthesis without a stem. With its bone preserving advantage, it offers those with arthritis of the shoulder an alternative to the standard stemmed shoulder replacement.

Resurfacing hemiarthroplasty may be an option for you if:

  • The glenoid still has an intact cartilage surface
  • There has been no fresh fracture of the humeral neck or head
  • There is a desire to preserve humeral bone

For patients who are young or very active, resurfacing hemiarthroplasty avoids the risks of component wear and loosening that may occur with conventional total shoulder replacements in this patient population. Due to its more conservative nature, resurfacing hemiarthroplasty may be easier to convert to total shoulder replacement, if necessary at a later time.

What is a reverse shoulder replacement?

Answer: Another type of shoulder replacement is called reverse total shoulder replacement. Reverse total shoulder replacement is used for people who have:

  • Completely torn rotator cuffs with severe arm weakness
  • The effects of severe arthritis and rotator cuff tearing (cuff tear arthropathy)
  • Had a previous shoulder replacement that failed

What are the possible complications with shoulder replacement surgery?

Answer: Your orthopedic surgeon will explain the potential risks and complications of shoulder joint replacement, including those related to the surgery itself and those that can occur over time after your surgery.

When complications occur, most are successfully treatable. Possible complications include the following.

Infection

Infection is a complication of any surgery. In shoulder joint replacement, an infection may occur in the wound or deep around the prosthesis. It may happen while in the hospital or after you go home. It may even occur years later. Minor infections in the wound area are generally treated with antibiotics. Major or deep infections may require more surgery and removal of the prosthesis.

Any infection in your body can spread to your joint replacement.

Prosthesis Problems

Although prosthesis designs and materials, as well as surgical techniques, continue to advance, the prosthesis may wear down and the components may loosen. The components of a shoulder replacement may also dislocate. Excessive wear, loosening, or dislocation may require additional surgery (revision procedure).

Nerve Injury

Nerves in the vicinity of the joint replacement may be damaged during surgery, although this type of injury is infrequent. Over time, these nerve injuries often improve and may completely recover.

How long is the recovery from shoulder replacement surgery?

Answer: Your medical team will give you several doses of antibiotics to prevent infection. Most patients can eat solid food and get out of bed the day of surgery You will most likely be able to go home the day after surgery, and some patients may even go home the day of surgery.

Pain Management

After surgery, you will feel some pain. This is a natural part of the healing process. Your doctor and nurses will work to reduce your pain, which can help you recover from surgery faster.

Medications are often prescribed for short-term pain relief after surgery. Many types of medicines are available to help manage pain, including opioids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and local anesthetics. Your doctor may use a combination of these medications to improve pain relief, as well as minimize the need for opioids.

Be aware that although opioids help relieve pain after surgery, they are a narcotic and can be addictive. Opioid dependency and overdose have become a critical public health issue in the U.S. It is important to use opioids only as directed by your doctor. As soon as your pain begins to improve, stop taking opioids. Talk to your doctor if your pain has not begun to improve within a few days of your surgery.

Pain management is an important part of your recovery. Physical therapy will begin soon after surgery, and when you feel less pain, you can start moving sooner and get your strength back more quickly. Talk with your doctor if postoperative pain becomes a problem.

Rehabilitation

A careful, well-planned rehabilitation program is critical to the success of a shoulder replacement and will be discussed with you by your surgeon.

Your Recovery At Home

When you leave the hospital, your arm will be in a sling. You will need the sling to support and protect your shoulder for the first 2 to 4 weeks after surgery.

Wound care. You will have staples running along your wound or a suture beneath your skin. The staples will be removed several weeks after surgery. A suture beneath your skin will not require removal.

Activity. Exercise is a critical component of home care, particularly during the first few weeks after surgery. Follow your surgeon’s home exercise plan to help you regain strength. Most patients can perform simple activities such as eating, dressing, and grooming right after surgery using your non-operative arm. An occupational therapist will see patient in the hospital after surgery to teach sling care and activities of daily living. Some pain with activity and at night is common for several weeks after surgery.

Driving a car is not allowed for 2 to 4 weeks after surgery.

What are the do’s and dont’s after shoulder replacement surgery?

Answer: The success of your surgery will depend largely on how well you follow your orthopedic surgeon’s instructions at home during the first few weeks after surgery. Here are some common do’s and don’ts for when you return home:

  • Don’t use the arm to push yourself up in bed or from a chair because this requires forceful contraction of muscles.
  • Do follow the program of home exercises prescribed for you. You may need to do the exercises 2 to 3 times a day for a month or more.
  • Don’t overdo it! If your shoulder pain was severe before the surgery, the experience of pain-free motion may lull you into thinking that you can do more than is prescribed. Early overuse of the shoulder may result in severe limitations in motion.
  • Don’t lift anything heavier than a glass of water for the first 2 to 4 weeks after surgery.
  • Do ask for assistance. Your physician may be able to recommend an agency or facility if you do not have home support.
  • Don’t participate in contact sports or do any repetitive heavy lifting after your shoulder replacement.
  • Do avoid placing your arm in any extreme position, such as straight out to the side or behind your body for the first 6 weeks after surgery.

Many thousands of patients have experienced an improved quality of life after shoulder joint replacement surgery. They experience less pain, improved motion and strength, and better function.