FDA-approved procedure for shoulder pain and lost function

The shoulder joint primarily consists of two bones articulating together in a ball-and-socket fashion, much like a baseball in a glove. The socket lies on the edge of the shoulder blade, while the ball, attached to it, is the head of the upper arm. The joint moves with the help of rotator cuff muscles that surround it. They are responsible for lifting and rotating the arm as well as stabilizing the joint.

Because the shoulder joint is free-moving and loose, much like a hinge, it is prone to injury. The rotator cuff can tear, resulting in pain and disability. People can no longer lift their arms, and often the consequent pain and immobility cause the joint to become stiff and rigid.

However, the millions of people who suffer from pain do not only include those with a torn rotator cuff but also those with shoulder pain from arthritis, unresolved frozen shoulder and other diseases. A shoulder implant device approved by the US Food and Drug Administration gives hope to those who lost function and quality of life due to disease or injury. The device is used as a total joint replacement, or a prosthetic revision of the joint.

The shoulder procedure works by reversing the positions of the ball and socket of the joint. The normal socket is replaced with a prosthetic ball, and a socket implant is screwed into what used to be the ball of the upper arm. The reversed design lessens the tendency of the arm to dislocate and puts the shoulder muscles at good leverage.

The surgery takes about 90 minutes and full recovery can be seen in four months. Patients who underwent the procedure reported significant reduction in pain and marked improvements in functional arm movement. The reverse shoulder arthroplasty, which has been performed in Europe for 15 years, was finally approved for use in the United States after several clinical trials.