Reverse shoulder replacement is a total shoulder replacement procedure.

The term “reverse” often causes a bit of confusion. Some people assume the surgery is performed on the back of the shoulder. But actually, the procedure gets its name from the placement of the ball and socket during the reconstructive surgery.

During traditional shoulder replacement surgery, a metal ball and plastic socket are placed in the same position as they occur naturally in the arm. The metal ball is placed on the top of the arm (humerus), and the durable plastic socket is placed on the end of the shoulder blade.

When the surgeon performs a reverse total shoulder replacement, the metal ball adheres to the shoulder blade, and the plastic socket is affixed to the end of the arm bone.

The reversed placement of the ball and socket requires the deltoid muscle to move the arm to the side, front, and overhead, substituting for the rotator cuff. Like a standard shoulder replacement, a reverse shoulder replacement also relieves shoulder pain and removes arthritis.

What if my rotator cuff is too damaged?

A reverse total shoulder replacement is often performed if the rotator cuff is too damaged, arthritis is too severe, or the amount of bone loss at the shoulder is too great. In these situations, a traditional shoulder replacement is not feasible.

Reverse shoulder replacement surgery also may be an option for people who have had a shoulder replacement that failed or needs revision. It is also an option for treating complex fractures in the upper arm that affect movement in the shoulder joint.

If you cannot lift your arm over your head or experience shoulder joint pain when you move your arm out to the side, you may be able to find relief.