The Average Lifespan of a Shoulder Replacement

Prosthetic joint replacement surgery allows patients suffering with joint deterioration resulting from degenerative bone diseases, such as arthritis, or shoulder joint damage, resulting from accidental injury, to return to normal or near-normal lives. Shoulder joint replacement has been available to patients since 1950 with the advantage of a longer lifespan than lower extremity joint replacements.

Longevity of Shoulder Replacements

Many factors determine the longevity of a prosthetic shoulder joint. Your physical condition, the type of activities you engage in, the type of work you do, the condition of your joint prior to surgery, the type of prosthesis required and your age are all determinants of the lifespan of your prosthesis.

The lifespan of any prosthesis is determined on an individual basis. Statistics can never take into account the many variables that can accelerate wear and loosening. Based upon the information provided to your doctor in reference to your lifestyle, he can make an educated guess as to how long you can expect your prosthesis to last, but any alteration in your activities invalidates his estimate.

Lifespan of Total Shoulder Replacement

On, Stephen A. Copeland, Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons, states, "glenoid component (the socket portion of the prosthesis) wear in TSR (total shoulder replacement) was becoming a problem after 10 years ..."

The reverse prosthesis, which reverses the surface structures of the shoulder joint by placing having a rounded glenoid component and a cup-shaped head on the humerus portion of the prosthesis is used primarily on patients older than 70 years and begins to deteriorate in 7 to 10 years.

Lifespan of Partial Shoulder Replacement

Washington Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine states the benefit of the non-prosthetic glenoid arthroplasty, "can last for decades." This procedure replaces the head of the humerus, but does not require insertion of a plastic lining in the socket as the TSR does. As a result, there is no artificial socket to wear out, loosen or break.

Active patients accelerate the deterioration process of their prosthetic replacement in relation to their level of activity. Although you may feel as though you can resume all of your former activities, you have to realise that even the best prosthesis is not as durable as your natural joint. According to Zimmer, a company that produces joint replacements, patients should avoid repeatedly lifting or pushing heavy objects, hammering and sports like boxing.

Shoulder Replacement Procedure

The surgical procedure for placement of a prosthetic joint requires either a nerve block or general anaesthesia. When performing a total shoulder replacement, the surgeon removes the damaged portion of the bone and replaces it with a metal prosthesis in the shape of a ball on top of a stem. Your doctor inserts the stem of the prosthesis into the shaft of your arm bone. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, the artificial bone has a special coating to allow bone to grow into it thereby securing the prosthesis in place without the use of cement. A small amount of cement secures the plastic liner that replaces the socket portion of the shoulder joint in place. The accuracy of the placement of the prosthesis during surgery also affects the lifespan of your new shoulder joint.

After Your Surgery

Your arm remains immobile for 24 hours after which you can perform simple tasks such as feeding yourself and brushing your teeth. You can expect a hospital stay of as few as three days, barring any complications. Postoperative therapy involves eight weeks of a home exercise program to improve your shoulder motion followed by muscle strengthening exercises. Development of muscle strength helps to stabilise and protect your prosthetic joint, minimise injury and improve its life expectancy. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, patients may resume activities in approximately six weeks following shoulder replacement surgery.

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About the Author

Sara Tomm began writing in 1971. She holds certificates in the medical, physiological and nutritional principles and treatment modalities for eating disorders. As a weight-management consultant, Tomm authored educational materials relating to the medical, psychological, environmental and social aspects of eating disorders, nutrition and physical fitness. She studied at Columbia University, Henry George School of Social Science, Farmingdale State College and Suffolk Community College.