Shoulder Joint Replacement

Shoulder Joint Replacement (Continued)

Possible Complications of Surgery
As with any major surgical procedure, patients who undergo total joint replacement are at risk for certain complications; however, the vast majority can be successfully avoided and/or treated. In fact, the complication rate following joint replacement surgery is very low: serious complications, such as joint infection, occur in less than 2% of patients.1

Besides infection, possible complications include blood clots (the most common complication) and lung congestion, or pneumonia. Some shoulder-specific complications that may occur are nerve injury — since many major nerves and blood vessels travel through the armpit (axilla) — and dislocation, particularly just after the replacement surgery.

Complications may require medical intervention including additional surgery and, in rare instances, may lead to death. Your doctor should discuss these potential complications with you.

After the Surgery
During your hospital stay, your orthopaedic specialist works closely with nurses, physical therapists, and other healthcare professionals to ensure the success of your surgery and rehabilitation. Usually a case manager is assigned to work with you as you move through your rehabilitation routines. As the days progress, expect to become more independent in your movements.

If you need to work with a physical therapist after your joint replacement, the therapist will begin an exercise program to be performed in bed and in the therapy department. The physical therapist will work with you to help you regain muscle strength and increase range of motion.

When fully recovered, most patients with shoulder replacements can return to work and normal daily activities. However, individual results vary. If you are considering doing any of the following activities — which could potentially affect how long your artificial shoulder will last and how well it will perform — discuss it first with your doctor or orthopaedic specialist:

  • Any activity that places excessive stress on your shoulder joint such as:
    - Lifting or pushing heavy objects
    - Hammering and other forceful arm/shoulder movements
    - Boxing and other arm/shoulder impact sports

The success of your joint replacement will strongly depend on how well you follow your orthopaedic specialist’s instructions. As time passes, you have the potential to experience a dramatic reduction in joint pain and a significant improvement in your ability to participate in daily activities.


1. Hanssen, A.D., et al., “Evaluation and Treatment of Infection at the Site of Total Hip or Knee Arthroplasty,” JBJS, Volume 80-A, No. 6, June 1998, pp. 910-922.