Glenohumeral Joint Arthritis- Putting Some Wear on the Tread

Arthritis is a painful, inflammatory condition that affects the slick, white cartilage on the ends of bones. As we age, the limited number of cartilage-producing cells declines, and the articular cartilage begins to wear thin. While non-operative treatments such as injections and NSAID’s can effectively treat the symptoms, the only curative treatment is a shoulder arthroplasty.

During this procedure, the physician will replace the arthritic humeral head with a metal ball and the arthritic glenoid with a plastic cup. For a video of this procedure, click this link.

As discussed on our Total Shoulder Arthroplasty page, the hardware used in these cases varies tremendously. Traditional long stem components have recently given way to short stem or completely stemless components like the one shown below from our Fort Sanders West clinic in Knoxville, TN.

Stemless Shoulder Arthroplasty

As you can see, the bright white “ball” at the end of the humerus (arm bone) does not have a stem extending down the shaft of the humerus. Instead, the component is press-fitted into the softer cancellous bone at the top of the bone. This allows the surgeon to place the component more precisely, as the stem no longer dictates where the prosthesis can be placed.

Also note the thin space between the metal head and the bony “cup” (glenoid). This space is actually filled with a special plastic infused with vitamin E, dramatically increasing the wear characteristics and prolonging the life of the implant. Dr. Spencer worked on the design team for this new cutting edge material, and the results have shown the plastic can last upwards of 20 years. The reason this shows up as clear on x rays is that it is considerably less dense than the surrounding bone.

When implanted correctly and precisely, a total shoulder arthroplasty can make a world of difference regarding pain and function. The procedure essentially replaces the raw, painful bone with painless metal and plastic, allowing most patients to progress through surgery with minimal narcotic use.

Let us know what you think below! We would love to hear your thoughts and field any questions you may have.

A Note from Dr. Spencer on Instability

Posterior instability (instability where the shoulder dislocates or partially dislocates backwards) is not as common as anterior instability were the shoulder dislocates towards the front. Anterior instability is usually secondary to a traumatic event where is posterior instability is frequently associated with repetitive loading. Repetitive loading is common in sports- especially in football lineman.

As opposed to anterior instability, posterior instability is frequently associated with pain and can occur without a true labral tear. It is more commonly associated with laxity in the posterior capsule. In cases where Physical Therapy does not achieve stability, surgical reconstruction of the posterior capsule can be performed.

The following is a case of an arthroscopic posterior capsulorraphy. In this case the posterior capsule and inferior capsule are tightened to treat the laxity and restore stability to the shoulder. These arthroscopic techniques allow the capsule to be tightened with minimal disruption of the surrounding soft tissue envelope.

Test Post

This is a test post as we prepare to unroll the blog function of our website. Check back soon for in-depth case analyses, surgical technique breakdown and more from Dr. Spencer and the team!

Our team is still hard at work caring for patients and updating website information. We thank you for your support during these uncertain times and pray you and your families stay safe, healthy and happy. If you need an appointment, feel free to submit a request at the bottom of our homepage and one of our team will call you to set up an appointment shortly!