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Recovering from Shoulder Replacement Surgery

Anatomic total shoulder arthroplasty is the gold standard replacement procedure for patients with an intact rotator cuff and sufficient bone to accommodate implants. It offers reliable patient satisfaction, excellent longevity and low complication rates. Patients who do not qualify for total shoulder replacement surgery have other options including hemiarthroplasty and nonanatomic options such as reverse total shoulder arthroplasty. Shoulder replacement surgery is very successful.  Generally, full recovery can take six months to a year.

What to expect

Shoulder replacement is typically done as an outpatient meaning you often are able to go home to recover after your surgery. Your pain will be managed with a nerve block which can help reduce your pain for the first few days after surgery and reduce your need for narcotic medications. You will receive a prescription for oral medications for pain management at home, and complete instructions about how to manage during recovery.  Physical therapy begins in the hospital. It will take six weeks to regain movement.

You will schedule appointments with Dr. Petrigliano at one week after surgery, six weeks postop, at 3 months, six months and one year.

There are three stages of recovery

Phase 1- Weeks 0-6 begins on postoperative day 1. Protection of the shoulder in the early phase of healing requires the use of a sling or shoulder immobilizer 24/7 for up to six weeks. Early postop passive range of motion exercises are designed to prevent shoulder and elbow stiffness.  The sling may be removed for grooming and home exercise program 3-5 times per day for 2-6 weeks. Most people need some assistance for the first six weeks postop. You will receive complete instructions on how to perform these exercises and restrictions such as no weight bearing until four weeks after surgery. By six weeks most people regain full movement and Dr. Petrigliano will decide when you may resume driving.

Phase 2 – Weeks 7-12. The main goal is the gradual restoration of range of motion.  Active range of motion and strengthening exercises are slowly introduced to recover mobility and strength. It is important to follow the at home rehab program created for you.

Phase 3 – 12 weeks + Continued gentle stretching for life and continued strengthening. Full range of motion and function occurs by six months but strengthening continues up to two years after surgery. Dr. Petrigliano will determine when you can return to sports. Gradual return to prior activity levels are allowed with full unrestricted activity at six months. No high impact loading is advised. The most common activities enjoyed by patients with shoulder replacement are swimming, golf, cycling, and fitness training.

How long does a shoulder replacement last?

More than 90% of total and reverse total shoulder replacements last longer than ten years after surgery. Patients can expect significant and long-lasting improvements in pain, strength, range of motion and the ability to complete everyday tasks.

Dr. Frank Petrigliano is an internationally renowned orthopedic surgeon and is the Chief of the Epstein Family Center for Sports Medicine at Keck Medicine of USC in Los Angeles, CA. He is a sports medicine expert who specializes in shoulder replacement surgery. His goal is to return his patients to the life they love and the sports that make life worth living with minimal interruption. Contact him at one of this three convenient locations to schedule a consultation and receive the correct diagnosis, all your treatment options, and expert personalized care.

At a Glance

Dr. Frank Petrigliano

  • Associate Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at USC
  • Chief of the Epstein Family Center for Sports Medicine
  • Team physician for the LA Kings and USC Athletics
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