Shoulder Replacement

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If you need shoulder replacement, this is both positive and stressful time. While it is good to know that something can be done to relieve your pain, often there are concerns about what to expect during and after the surgery.

At SSM DePaul, the Joint Replacement Center staff is expertly trained and focused on ensuring that the experience for you and your family is a smooth and positive one. Dr. Burns and the team work hard to ensure that everything runs smoothly before, during and after the surgery.

Before the surgery, preoperative testing is necessary to ensure that you are ready and healthy enough to undergo a surgical procedure. This involves complete x-rays of the shoulder, a CT scan or MRI, bloodwork and an EKG. Dr. Burns requires medical evaluation and involvement of your primary care doctor. Depending on your health, this can be a rather simple or quite involved process to prepare you for surgery. The preoperative testing center coordinates this process.

On the day of surgery, you will check in with your family member(s) 1-1/2 hours ahead of the planned procedure. The surgery usually takes 1-2 hours. This may be longer if the planned surgery is complex or a revision (redo) surgery. The team will keep your family advised of your progress during your surgery.

Typically patients stay 1-3 nights in the hospital in the Joint Replacement Center, which is on the main level of the hospital. The physical therapists will begin working with you the next day. Most patients will stay 2 nights; if surgery is on a Friday, you will typically go home on Sunday. You may stay longer or shorter depending on your pain level, your medical status, and your progress with the physical therapist.

After surgery, home health and home therapy will work with you at home for 3 weeks. If you have any concern that you cannot function well at home, there may be an option to stay in a skilled nursing facility for a few weeks. Let Dr. Burns know if this is something that you think you may need; while this cannot be arranged ahead of time you will be carefully evaluated after surgery. This is typical if you have any of the following: a need to weight bear on your shoulders (using a cane or walker); if you have problems with both shoulders; if you have multiple medical problems; or if there is no or limited family help or support at home.

If you need to weight bear on your arms with a cane or walker, you can begin to do that after 4 weeks. If you cannot walk or safely get around without your walker, you may need to consider staying at a skilled facility for 4 weeks until you can safely bear weight on your new shoulder replacement. Be sure to discuss this with Dr. Burns.

Most people need some family support at home for the first few weeks, including meals, groceries, or household help. However, since you have been functioning with a painful or limited shoulder before the surgery, often you are able to return to routine activities at home postoperatively. You do have to wear a sling and sleep in a sling for 3 weeks after surgery. You are considered “home bound” for the first 3 weeks and should not leave home or drive except for doctors’ appointments and a few other approved reasons.

After 3 weeks, you can return to driving and everyday activities as you feel comfortable. Not everyone will want to start driving exactly at 3 weeks, and many people take their time until they feel comfortable controlling a car. Therapy will switch to an outpatient clinic, unless you continue to be “home bound” due to limitations. By 3 months after surgery, most patients have completed therapy and have returned to a normal routine.

If you have any questions, you can contact Dr. Burns or her staff with questions at 314-291-7900.