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Shoulder and elbow replacement

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Do I need a shoulder or elbow joint replacement?

A joint replacement may be considered if:
  • your pain can’t be relieved by other methods such as drugs, injections or physiotherapy and the pain is affecting your quality of life
  • your arthritis stops you using your arm easily
  • you have a bone fracture close to the joint that can’t be fixed.
Read more >

What are the possible advantages of shoulder or elbow replacement?

Benefits can include:
  • pain in the joint will disappear or be much reduced
  • improved quality of life.
Read more >

What are the possible disadvantages of shoulder or elbow replacement?

Disadvantages can include:
  • a replacement joint will never be as good as a natural joint
  • limited movement compared to a healthy natural joint
  • replacement joints will wear out given enough time.
Read more >

What are the alternatives to shoulder or elbow joint replacement?

Surgery will only be considered if other treatments haven’t relieved your pain. In some cases there are other operations available that are more helpful than joint replacement. Read more >

What are the different types of shoulder and elbow joint replacement?

Common types of shoulder replacement include:

  • hemiarthroplasty
  • shoulder resurfacing
  • total arthroplasty
  • reverse anatomy arthroplasty

Common types of elbow replacement include:

  • pivoted replacement joint
  • pivotless replacement joint
  • radial head replacement
  • Read more >

How should I prepare for shoulder or elbow replacement?

Before you go in for surgery, you should ask your hospital team the following questions:

  • What can I expect from surgery?
  • What can I expect if I don’t have surgery?
  • What are the alternatives?
  • What are the risks?
  • How long will I be in hospital?
  • When will I get back to my expected level of activity?
  • What if I have problems after surgery?
  • Read more >

What will my recovery from shoulder or elbow replacement involve?

Immediately after your operation you'll be given some form of painkiller and have any drips and drains removed. Your recovery will also involve some physiotherapy and occupational therapy. Most people are able to leave hospital within 2–3 days. Read more >

Looking after your new shoulder or elbow joint

After elbow replacement surgery, you’re advised not to lift objects heavier than a small bag of sugar for the rest of your life. The current artificial elbow joints aren’t designed for any heavier work and you could reduce the effective life span of these joints by over-stressing them.

If you had a total shoulder replacement, again you should avoid heavy loads to help your new joint last. This is especially important if you’ve had a reverse anatomy arthroplasty. Read more >

What are the possible complications of shoulder or elbow replacement?

Possible complications can include:
  • infection
  • stiffness
  • pain
  • loosening of the replacement parts
  • fracture of the bone during or after surgery
  • poor healing of the wound
  • wound haematoma (bleeding)
  • damage to nearby nerves causing temporary or, rarely, permanent numbness or weakness.
Read more >

How long will my shoulder or elbow replacement last?

There’s a very good chance that your shoulder or elbow joint replacement will last for 10 years. After this time it may loosen and wear out. A second joint replacement (revision surgery) may then be possible. Read more >

Research and new developments for shoulder and elbow replacement

Research backed by Arthritis Research UK has helped to identify the best surgical method for shoulder replacement. Read more >
For more information, go to or call 0300 790 0400 to order the complete printed booklet.
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