Joint injuries can happen suddenly or may develop over time. As often as possible, surgeons try to correct joint problems using conservative interventions such as medication to reduce inflammation and physical therapy to increase joint mobility. When surgery is needed, patients may expect techniques aimed at repairing the joint. The suggestion for replacement may come as quite a surprise. As shoulder specialists, we see a lot of patients in our New Jersey offices who are ready to address acute or persistent shoulder pain. Here, we discuss some of the reasons why a shoulder replacement may be recommended.
- Rotator Cuff Tear Arthropathy. Some rotator cuff tears go on for years without a person knowing of their injury. To compensate for the tear, shoulder mechanics change over time. This change in movement triggers the onset of arthritis in the area of the rotator cuff tear. This is a slowly progressing condition that eventually limits mobility and comfort.
- Degeneration of the shoulder joint. Joint wear and tear affect nearly every person at some point. Usually, degenerative joint disease is identified in individuals over the age of 50. This may be diagnosed as osteoarthritis, the condition in which the cartilage that lines the joint degrades. Over time, the cartilage thins to a point at which two bones begin to rub against each other during movements. Degenerative joint disease is believed to be the most common reason for joint replacement.
- Post-injury arthritis. Similar to the development of arthritis after a rotator cuff tear, stiffening and degeneration of the cartilage in the shoulder joint may occur after a known injury. Ligament damage or tears, fractures, and other traumatic injuries to the shoulder present a risk for arthritis in the future.
- Severe fracture. As often as possible, we attempt to repair fractures in the shoulder and other parts of the arm and wrist. However, if there is a concern that the fracture may limit adequate blood supply to the affected part of the shoulder or that the bones will no longer function well in this intricate joint, shoulder replacement may be suggested.
For many patients facing shoulder replacement, there is a combination of factors at play. Our job is to identify those factors, explain the reason for surgery, and help patients regain the comfort and range of motion they need for optimal quality of living.