What is a total shoulder replacement?

The shoulder, which is a ball and socket joint, is made up of 2 bones. These are:

  • Humerus
  • Scapula

The ball of the humerus fits into the glenoid socket, and articular cartilage and synovial membrane protect the bones. Muscles and tendons hold the shoulder together and provide stability. All of these components work together to allow the shoulder a good range of motion. When any of these components are severely damaged, your orthopedic surgeon may recommend shoulder replacement surgery. In this case, damaged bone and cartilage are removed and replaced with prosthetic components.

How does it work?

The shoulder replacement procedure involves replacing damaged cartilage and bone with prosthetic components. Prosthetic components used in shoulder replacement are made from a range of materials including metal, ceramic, and plastic. New technological advances in surgery mean that the procedure has good long-term results.

In a total shoulder replacement, your orthopedic surgeon will replace damaged surfaces with a metal ball, which is attached to a stem and a plastic socket. These components may be attached with cement.

Before you decide to undergo shoulder replacement surgery, your orthopedic surgeon will conduct a thorough physical examination. He may choose to use x-ray and MRI scans to confirm his diagnoses.

Do I need it?

If you suffer from one of the following shoulder injuries, you may need a total shoulder replacement:

  • A rotator cuff tear that cannot be repaired
  • Severe shoulder pain
  • Inability to lift your arm above your head
  • Severe osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Severe fracture
  • Avascular necrosis

What do I need to know?

Before considering shoulder replacement surgery, an evaluation by an orthopedic surgeon is required. The procedure typically takes a few hours, and post-operative rehabilitation is essential.

When considering shoulder replacement surgery, bear in mind the following:

  • You need to see a physiotherapist after your surgery to ensure you are aware of any limitations or precautions you will need to take.
  • Your doctor will prescribe antibiotics to reduce the risk of infection after the surgery.
  • Your doctor will prescribe pain medication after the procedure.
  • It will take some time for you to become fully mobile after your surgery– it is important to take time to heal properly. Your recovery time will depend on your condition.


Dr Gabriel Pirjol is based at St Augustine’s Hospital in Durban and also consults and operates from Gateway Hospital in Umhlanga, Westville Hospital and Malvern Medicross.


Telephone : +27 31 202 5463

Email :

Address : Suite 24 Chelmsford Medical Centre
St Augustine's Hospital
107 J B Marks Road
Berea, 4001