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Treatment of Osteoarthritis of the shoulder through prosthesis

The cartilage in your shoulder gets used a huge amount, which can result in osteoarthritis. The bone becomes gradually uncovered and it deforms over time, which causes friction when it moves. As a result, it becomes increasingly stiff and painful.

Since the shoulder joint no longer works well, the tendons of the muscles that make it move (Rotator cuff) are at risk of tearing, which would worsen the situation. That’s why it is better to intervene before this happens.


Your surgeon will propose to replace the damaged cartilage areas with artificial parts (prosthesis).

Once you are a general anaesthetic, the surgeon will cut the end of your humerus bone and dig out the bone before introducing material that reproduces its shape. The operation stops there for the setting of a hemiarthroplasty.

For a total prosthesis, the surgeon removes the cartilage on the glenoid and prepares the bone to attach an extra part: the cup.

If necessary, he/she also repairs torn tendons. The operation lasts between 1.5-2 hours and you will be hospitalised for approximately 10 days.


Sometimes you are given a treatment to reduce the risk of blood solidified plugs (clots) getting stuck in the veins of your arm (phlebitis) or lungs (embolism).

If microbes invade the prosthesis (infection), a prolonged medical treatment and sometimes a new intervention is necessary. To limit this risk, we verify that you have no disease before, during and after the operation.

Although the prosthesis might work right away, you should wait a little while before resuming normal use of your arm.


The muscles and tendons that surround the joint can hurt you even several weeks or months, and rehabilitation is essential for a good result.

In exceptional circumstances, the arm can become stiff and exaggeratedly swell (algodistrophy). However, more frequently, there is a slight shoulder stiffness that disappears with time. Depending on your individual case, you could be off work for as little as 15 days or as much as three months. You will also have to be careful in your activities to conserve the prosthesis, as certain movements could result in dislocation.

Even if the intervention brings dramatic improvements from the beginning, it takes six months to really evaluate the result. This depends largely on the condition of muscles and tendons surrounding the joint.

Over time, the material holds less well in the bone (loosening) and sometimes it will need to be changed.