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Reverse Shoulder Replacement Surgery: A Closer Look

Date: April 3, 2015 Category: Uncategorized

If you’ve spent any time exploring options to relieve arthritis pain or other chronic shoulder issues, you’ve no doubt become familiar with total shoulder replacement surgery. But have you heard of reverse total shoulder replacement? This revolutionary approach provides new options for people who previously thought there was no way out of chronic shoulder pain.

The Surgery

Traditional shoulder replacement surgery involves replacing the bone portions of the shoulder joint with new plastic or metal pieces. A new cup is attached to the shoulder socket (called a glenoid) and a new ball is attached to the top of the upper arm (the humerus). This new ball then fits into the glenoid socket and allows for smooth movement of the arm, just like the original anatomy.

In a reverse shoulder replacement, the surgeon performs just the opposite. The glenoid part (socket) of the new joint is attached to the end of the humerus, and the ball portion of the joint replaces the old shoulder socket.

Why would this nonanatomic solution be necessary?

In the healthy shoulder, the rotator cuff holds the joint in place allowing the arm to move freely. Rotator cuff deficient shoulders, usually due to large/irrepearable tears, are unstable shoulders.  As a result, the large powerful muscles that get our arms over our heads (deltoid) are rendered ineffective. The instability often leads to shoulder pain, weakness, and motion loss.  A reverse shoulder replacement creates a stable joint.

Candidates for Reverse Shoulder Replacement

Reverse shoulder replacement is used primarily in patients with significant rotator cuff deficiency. The most common cause of cuff deficiency is a large, irreparable tear. It’s similar to wearing a large hole in the knee of your pants. The hole can only be repaired in a way that creates tremendous tension on the stitches used to close the defect. Repair failure is the norm in this setting. Until the reverse shoulder replacement became available in 2005, surgeons had little to offer this growing patient population. That has all changed. Reverse shoulder replacement provides a reliably effective and durable solution for patients with rotator cuff deficiency.

The reverse surgery is also an option for patients who have previously undergone a shoulder replacement surgery and encountered complications or surgery failure. While the success rate of shoulder replacement surgery is quite high, there is always a possibility for complication in any procedure, and the reverse shoulder replacement is a good option for anyone who has already tried a traditional replacement unsuccessfully.

What Else to Know

Reverse shoulder replacements are becoming more and more common with the continuous advancement of medical technology, and regardless of your age, it could be an option for you if you are suffering from chronic shoulder pain. If you’re ocnsidering shoulder replacement, check out our revolutionary joint replacement program here at Excelsior, and get in touch with us to set up an appointment. 


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