I Need a Reverse Shoulder Replacement, What Should I Expect?


A traditional shoulder replacement is for patients with arthritis of the ball and socket joint, otherwise known as the glenohumeral joint. For a traditional shoulder replacement to work, you need to have a functioning rotator cuff. Without a rotator cuff, the traditional shoulder replacement does not work. The reverse shoulder replacement was created for patients with both shoulder arthritis and rotator cuff tears in order to give them functioning shoulders.

The reverse shoulder replacement allows your shoulder to work by modifying the physics of the shoulder. It moves the shoulder’s center of rotation down and allows your deltoid muscle (the large muscle that you feel on your shoulder) to do the work that your small rotator cuff muscles and tendons used to do. This gives you a painless and functioning shoulder despite having a rotator cuff tear!

Over the past 10 years we have found that our patients do so well with reverse shoulder replacements that we are using them more often. We now use reverse shoulder replacements in somewhat younger patient populations with severe arthritis and poor rotator cuff tissue, older patients with large and irreparable rotator cuff tears and patients with shoulder fractures that may have a poor outcome if fixed with plates and screws.

If you need a reverse shoulder replacement, the recovery is much easier and quicker than the recovery from either a traditional shoulder replacement or an arthroscopic rotator cuff repair. You should have improved pain relief by 2 weeks and by 6 weeks you should be out of a sling with significantly improved range of motion. By 3 months you should be well on your way to a full recovery. If you are a golfer, chipping and putting at 6 weeks is a possibility and swinging the driver at 3 to 4 months is a good goal.

So, if you need a reverse shoulder replacement, be not afraid, you have an excellent chance at a great outcome! Please visit our website at Ortho Rhode Island for a list of our shoulder surgeons and the AAOS website for more information regarding reverse shoulder replacement.

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