Skip to content

Hemiarthroplasty for Shoulder Injuries: What to Expect

Hemiarthroplasty is a surgical procedure commonly used to treat shoulder injuries, particularly those involving the humeral head. It involves replacing the damaged or diseased part of the shoulder joint with a prosthetic implant. This procedure can significantly improve the function and quality of life for individuals suffering from shoulder injuries. However, it is essential to understand what to expect before undergoing hemiarthroplasty. This article aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the procedure, including its indications, surgical techniques, recovery process, potential complications, and long-term outcomes.

Indications for Hemiarthroplasty

Hemiarthroplasty is typically recommended for individuals with severe shoulder injuries that cannot be effectively treated with conservative measures. The procedure is commonly indicated for the following conditions:

  • Proximal humerus fractures: Hemiarthroplasty is often performed in cases where the fracture involves the humeral head and cannot be adequately stabilized with other methods.
  • Osteoarthritis: When the shoulder joint is affected by severe osteoarthritis, hemiarthroplasty can provide pain relief and restore function.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: Individuals with rheumatoid arthritis may require hemiarthroplasty if the disease has caused significant joint destruction and functional impairment.
  • Avascular necrosis: This condition, characterized by the death of bone tissue due to poor blood supply, can lead to shoulder joint deterioration, necessitating hemiarthroplasty.

It is crucial for patients to undergo a thorough evaluation by an orthopedic specialist to determine if hemiarthroplasty is the most appropriate treatment option for their specific condition.

Surgical Techniques

Hemiarthroplasty can be performed using different surgical techniques, depending on the specific shoulder injury and the surgeon’s preference. The two primary approaches are the deltopectoral and the transdeltoid approach.

The deltopectoral approach involves making an incision along the anterior aspect of the shoulder, allowing the surgeon to access the joint. This approach provides excellent exposure to the humeral head and allows for precise implant placement. However, it may result in more postoperative pain and a longer recovery period.

The transdeltoid approach, on the other hand, involves making an incision over the lateral aspect of the shoulder. This approach preserves the integrity of the deltoid muscle and may result in less postoperative pain and a faster recovery. However, it may provide limited exposure to the humeral head, making implant placement more challenging.

During the procedure, the damaged or diseased humeral head is removed, and a prosthetic implant is inserted into the shoulder joint. The implant can be either a stemmed or stemless design, depending on the patient’s specific needs and the surgeon’s preference. The prosthetic implant is typically made of metal and may have a polyethylene or ceramic head.

Recovery Process

The recovery process following hemiarthroplasty for shoulder injuries can vary depending on several factors, including the patient’s overall health, the extent of the injury, and the surgical technique used. However, there are some general guidelines that patients can expect during their recovery:

  • Immobilization: After surgery, the shoulder may be immobilized using a sling or a shoulder immobilizer to protect the surgical site and promote healing. The duration of immobilization will depend on the surgeon’s recommendation.
  • Physical therapy: Physical therapy plays a crucial role in the recovery process. It typically begins shortly after surgery and focuses on regaining range of motion, strengthening the shoulder muscles, and improving overall function. The physical therapist will tailor the exercises to the patient’s specific needs and gradually increase the intensity as the shoulder heals.
  • Pain management: Pain and discomfort are common after hemiarthroplasty. The surgeon will prescribe pain medications to help manage postoperative pain. Additionally, applying ice packs to the shoulder can help reduce swelling and alleviate pain.
  • Gradual return to activities: Patients can expect a gradual return to their daily activities and sports. The timeline for resuming specific activities will vary depending on the individual’s progress and the surgeon’s recommendations.

It is essential for patients to follow their surgeon’s instructions carefully and attend all recommended follow-up appointments to ensure a successful recovery.

Potential Complications

While hemiarthroplasty is generally considered a safe and effective procedure, like any surgery, it carries some risks and potential complications. It is crucial for patients to be aware of these potential complications before undergoing the procedure:

  • Infection: There is a risk of developing an infection at the surgical site. Patients will be prescribed antibiotics to reduce this risk, and proper wound care is essential.
  • Implant-related complications: The prosthetic implant used in hemiarthroplasty can sometimes loosen or dislocate over time. This may require revision surgery to correct the issue.
  • Nerve or blood vessel injury: During the procedure, there is a small risk of damaging nearby nerves or blood vessels. This can lead to numbness, weakness, or other neurological complications.
  • Stiffness and limited range of motion: Some patients may experience stiffness and limited range of motion in the shoulder joint following hemiarthroplasty. Physical therapy and regular exercise can help minimize these issues.

It is important for patients to discuss these potential complications with their surgeon and address any concerns or questions they may have.

Long-Term Outcomes

The long-term outcomes of hemiarthroplasty for shoulder injuries are generally positive, with many patients experiencing significant pain relief and improved function. However, individual outcomes can vary depending on several factors, including the patient’s age, overall health, and the specific shoulder injury being treated.

Studies have shown that the majority of patients who undergo hemiarthroplasty experience improved shoulder function and a reduction in pain. A study published in the Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery found that 85% of patients who underwent hemiarthroplasty for proximal humerus fractures reported good to excellent outcomes at a mean follow-up of 5.5 years.

Another study published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery found that patients who underwent hemiarthroplasty for osteoarthritis had significant improvements in pain, range of motion, and functional outcomes at a mean follow-up of 10 years.

While these studies demonstrate the positive outcomes of hemiarthroplasty, it is important to note that individual results may vary. It is crucial for patients to have realistic expectations and understand that full recovery and optimal outcomes may take time.


Hemiarthroplasty is a surgical procedure commonly used to treat shoulder injuries, such as proximal humerus fractures, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and avascular necrosis. The procedure involves replacing the damaged or diseased part of the shoulder joint with a prosthetic implant. The recovery process typically involves immobilization, physical therapy, pain management, and a gradual return to activities. While hemiarthroplasty is generally safe and effective, there are potential complications, including infection, implant-related issues, nerve or blood vessel injury, and stiffness. Long-term outcomes are generally positive, with many patients experiencing improved shoulder function and pain relief. However, individual outcomes may vary. It is crucial for patients to have realistic expectations and discuss any concerns with their surgeon before undergoing hemiarthroplasty.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *