Shoulder Joint Replacement Summary

Shoulder joint replacement is used to relieve joint pain and immobility. However, it is done at a fraction of the rate of other joint replacement surgeries. There are a number of conditions that this surgery is used to treat including:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Post-traumatic arthritis
  • Failed shoulder replacement
  • Avascular necrosis
  • Rotator cuff tear arthropathy

The shoulder is a ball and socket joint. A healthy joint has protective cartilage between the ball and socket. A damaged joint has reduced cartilage and the ball and socket rub together. Shoulder joint replacement surgery removes the damaged ball and socket and replaces them with artificial parts.

Length of the procedure: The entire procedure takes 2 hours.

Hospital Stay: The average hospital stay for patients undergoing a shoulder joint replacement procedure is 2 to 4 days.

Recovery before traveling home: Patients seeking shoulder joint replacement through medical tourism can usually return home within 3 to 4 days of their surgery.

Travel Tip: The hospital stay for this medical tourism procedure can fluctuate, and there is no definitive way to guarantee whether you will need to stay 4 days or less. For this reason, it is best to travel on a flexible schedule or give yourself a buffer in your travel dates.

Procedure Details

Your surgery will begin with the administration of either a regional or anesthetic block and general anesthesia. The surgical area will be prepped with an antiseptic liquid and sterile draping. Then, the surgeon will make an incision so they have access to the shoulder joint.

The surgeon will remove the humeral head or the ball of the joint first. They will also clear away any bones spurs by filing them off the socket. They will examine the glenoid socket. If it is severely damaged it will be removed or replaced, otherwise it will be repaired and left in place.

The artificial parts used in a shoulder joint replacement are made from metal and plastic. Surgeons use bone cement to secure the artificial parts in their desired positions. Once everything has been placed tendons are reattached to the bones and the surgical incision is closed.

After the Procedure

After the procedure you will be moved to recovery first. You will be monitored carefully until you recover from your anesthesia. Then, you will be moved to a regular hospital room for the remainder of your stay.

You will be given IV pain medication for the first 24 hours following your procedure. A drain will be placed in your shoulder, but removed within 24 hours. Your arm will be in a sling and your shoulder will wrapped in bandages.

During the first few days of your hospital stay a continuous motion device will be used to apply gentle movement to the shoulder joint. A physical therapist will prescribe you some flexibility and strength exercises to do during your recovery.

Upon leaving the hospital the following precautions should be taken:

  • Keep the incision dry
  • Check incision for swelling or drainage
  • Avoid use of deodorant
  • Avoid lifting heavy objects
  • Follow discharge instructions


Most patients achieve a full recovery within 1 year of their shoulder joint replacement surgery. The majority of patients experience reduced pain and improved motion, strength and function following this procedure. However, adherence to the rehabilitation process is crucial to a successful outcome. An artificial shoulder joint can last up to 20 years.

Risks and Complications

As is with any surgery there are certain risks associated with shoulder joint replacement. The following is a list of the most common risks and complications:

  • Infection
  • Loosening of the artificial joint
  • Dislocation
  • Arterial damage
  • Nerve Damage
  • Stiffness
  • Pain

Any concerns you have regarding these risks and complications before or after your procedure should be discussed with your physician.

Contact your physician if:
  • Blood soaks through the surgical dressing and is not affected by pressure
  • Pain is not alleviated by pain medication
  • Swelling in the arm occurs
  • Redness, pain or swelling of the surgical wound develops
  • Discharge from the surgical wound is yellowish or foul smelling
  • Temperature rises above 101