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How Reverse Shoulder Replacement Differs From Traditional Replacement Surgery

July 12, 2022
A man discusses shoulder pain with his physician

Conventional total shoulder replacements are one of the most common treatments for those with shoulder arthritis. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, more than 53,000 people in the United States undergo this procedure annually.

Despite these relatively high numbers, traditional shoulder replacements are not always the best option for all patients. An effective alternative is reverse total shoulder replacement. Discover the benefits of this procedure and how it compares to conventional surgery from Richmond University Medical Center in Staten Island, NY.

Reverse vs. Traditional Shoulder Replacement

The human shoulder consists of three bones — the shoulder blade (scapula), collarbone (clavicle), and upper arm bone (humerus). It also features two joints for movement, the acromioclavicular and glenohumeral joints. The glenohumeral joint forms where a ball at the top of the humerus meets a thin socket in the scapula called a glenoid. Shoulder replacement surgery deals with these parts of the body.

A physician may recommend traditional or reverse total shoulder replacement surgery based on the patient’s specific situation. While both surgeries seek to heal shoulder issues, each features a distinct process and is suited to different conditions. Consider the following distinctions between the procedures:

Conventional Shoulder Replacement

During this surgery, the patient acquires a prosthetic device that imitates the shoulder’s anatomy. The surgeon implants a plastic cup into the shoulder socket and connects a metal ball to the top of the humerus. They use medical cement to ensure the various pieces of the device stick together. Most people who receive traditional shoulder replacement typically have a healthy rotator cuff.

Reverse Total Shoulder Replacement

As the name suggests, reverse shoulder surgery involves switching the ball and socket to the other side to alter their natural position. The surgeon inserts a plastic cup into the upper end of the humerus and attaches a synthetic ball to the socket.

Since this procedure utilizes different muscles for movement, it is ideal for those with a damaged rotator cuff (arthropathy). Usually, people with impaired rotator cuffs struggle to move their arms even with prosthetics. Reverse total shoulder replacement relies on the deltoid muscles to strengthen and position the arm instead of the rotator cuff.

Many people opt for this surgery because of arthritis in their shoulder joints and torn or missing rotator cuff tendons. In this case, reverse shoulder replacement provides substantial pain relief and expands the range of motion. Other reasons a physician may recommend reverse total shoulder surgery include:

  • The rotator cuff tendons are torn to the point the patient cannot lift their arm high enough for everyday use.
  • The patient had replacement surgery before but still experiences discomfort and limited motion.
  • The patient has fractures in the shoulder, especially those affecting the area of the arm bone (proximal humerus), where the ball fastens to the shaft of the bone.
  • The patient has a tumor in the proximal humerus located either on the shaft or the ball of the bone.

What Are the Benefits of Reverse Shoulder Replacement?

Although reverse total shoulder replacement was created for those with torn rotator cuffs, other patients with shoulder pain may find the procedure a worthwhile treatment. The surgery offers several other advantages, such as:

  • Accelerated recovery: Patients who receive reverse shoulder replacement tend to gain range of motion faster than those who go the traditional route.
  • Joint stabilization: Reverse shoulder surgery stabilizes and fortifies the joint against the side effects of arthritis and rotator cuff tears.
  • Enhanced quality of life: Arguably the most significant pro of this procedure is that it enables the person to experience more comfort while participating in their daily activities.

Seek Reverse Shoulder Replacement in Staten Island

Reverse total shoulder replacement is the perfect solution for individuals who would not experience much improvement with traditional shoulder surgery. Patients suffering from shoulder pain can turn to the orthopedics team at Richmond University Medical Center for treatment from board-certified and fellowship-trained physicians. Besides reverse total shoulder replacement, the team also performs the following shoulder procedures:

  • Reconstruction
  • Stabilization
  • Resurfacing (partial joint replacement)
  • Revision rotator cuff repair surgery
  • Labrum repair

Richmond University Medical Center is a full service hospital, serving the ethnically diverse communities in Staten Island, NY, and the surrounding areas. Contact us today to learn more about reverse total shoulder replacement and other healthcare services.