Shoulder replacement - discharge

You had shoulder replacement surgery to replace the bones of your shoulder joint with artificial joint parts. The parts include a stem made of metal and a metal ball that fits on the top of the stem. A plastic piece is used as the new surface of the shoulder blade. Artificial joints come in different sizes to fit different sized people.

You received pain medicine. You also learned how to manage swelling around your new artificial shoulder joint.

What to Expect at Home

Your shoulder area may feel warm and tender for 2 - 4 weeks. The swelling should decrease during this time.

You will need help with everyday activities, such as driving, shopping, bathing, preparing meals, and household chores, for up to 6 weeks.


You will probably be wearing a sling for the first 6 weeks. When you are lying down, your shoulder should rest on a rolled up towel or small pillow.

Your doctor or physical therapist may teach you pendulum exercises to do at home for 4 - 6 weeks, as well as safe ways to move and use your arm and shoulder.

Ask your doctor about what sports and other activities are okay for you after you recover. You will probably not be able to drive for at least 4 weeks. Your doctor or physical therapist will tell you when it is okay.

Consider making some changes around your home so it is easier for you to take care of yourself.

See also: Using your shoulder after replacement surgery


Your doctor will give you a prescription for pain medicines. Get it filled when you go home so you have it when you need it. Take your pain medicine when you start having pain. Waiting too long to take it will allow your pain to get worse than it should.

Narcotic pain medicine (codeine, hydrocodone, oxycodone) can make you constipated. If you are taking them, drink plenty of fluids, and eat fruits and vegetables and other high-fiber foods to help keep your stools loose.

See also:

Do not drink alcohol or drive if you are taking these pain medicines.

Taking ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or other anti-inflammatory drugs with your prescription pain drugs may also help. Ask your doctor about using them. Your doctor may also give you aspirin to prevent blood clots. If you are told to to take aspirin, you should stop taking anti-inflammatory medicines.

Wound Care

Sutures (stitches) or staples will be removed about 1 - 2 week2 after surgery. Keep your incision clean and dry.

Keep your dressing (bandage) over your wound clean and dry. You may change the dressing every day if you like

  • Do not shower until after your follow-up appointment with your doctor. Your doctor will tell you when you can begin taking showers. When you do, let the water run over the incision. Do NOT scrub.
  • Do not soak your wound in the bath tub or a hot tub for at least the first 3 weeks.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor or nurse if you have:

  • Bleeding that soaks through your dressing and does not stop when you place pressure over the area
  • Pain that does not go away when you take your pain medicine
  • Swelling in your arm
  • Redness, pain, swelling, or a yellowish discharge from the wound
  • Temperature higher than 101 °F

Also call the doctor if:

  • Your hand or fingers are darker in color or feel cool to the touch.
  • Your new shoulder joint does not feel secure. It feels like it is moving around.

Alternate Names

Total shoulder arthroplasty - discharge; Endoprosthetic shoulder replacement - discharge; Partial shoulder replacement - discharge; Partial shoulder arthroplasty - discharge; Replacement - shoulder - discharge; Arthroplasty - shoulder - discharge


Glenohumeral arthritis and its management. In: Rockwood CA Jr, Matsen FA III, Wirth MA, Lippitt SB, Clinton J, eds. The Shoulder. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:chap 22.

Azar FM, Calandruccio JH. Arthroplasty of the shoulder and elbow. In: Canale ST, Beatty JH, eds. Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics. 11th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2007:chap 8.

Update Date: 1/27/2011

Updated by: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.


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