Preparing for Shoulder Replacement Surgery

Recommendations for surgery are based on the patient's pain and disability, rather than age. After undergoing an orthopedic evaluation, you and your surgeon will decide if total shoulder replacement surgery is the best possible treatment for you. If so, your team of medical experts will provide you with information on how to prepare for the procedure.

Medical Evaluation

A few weeks before your procedure, you will need to have a complete physical by your primary care doctor to rule out any other medical problems that may interfere with your surgery. At this time, your doctor also will take your medical history and order various tests that must be performed before surgery, such as blood tests, urinalysis, a chest X-ray and an electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG).

Be sure to tell your orthopedic surgeon about all medications that you are taking. They will then advise you on which medications you should continue or stop taking prior to surgery. In addition, if you develop any kind of infection prior to surgery, such as a cold or the flu, notify your surgeon immediately.

You should be in the best possible health before your surgery. If you are overweight, your doctor may suggest that you lose weight. If you smoke, it is highly recommended that you stop prior to your surgery because smoking can change blood flow patterns and delay healing and recovery.

Seven days prior to surgery, you should stop taking all aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Aleve, Motrin, Ibuprofen, Advil and Naproxen. You may continue taking Cox-II inhibitors such as Vioxx, Celebrex and Bextra. You may take Tylenol for pain and discomfort.

Blood Donation

Shoulder replacement surgery can result in blood loss that may require blood transfusion. Therefore, it is suggested that you donate your own blood, usually one unit, before surgery. If you are unable to donate blood for yourself, your family or friends may donate for you. They must have the same blood type and meet criteria for donation. Otherwise, banked blood is available. Banked blood, which is from volunteers, is screened for viral diseases and is matched to your blood type.

If you are having surgery due to an infected prosthesis, you are not allowed to donate your own blood for surgery. In these cases, you must have family or friends donate blood or receive blood from a volunteer.

Dental Evaluation

Significant dental conditions and problems should be treated prior to surgery. Although uncommon, an infection can occur as a result of these dental procedures if bacteria enter your bloodstream. If necessary, be sure to schedule an appointment with your dentist before your joint replacement surgery to treat any problems you may have.


Once your surgery has been scheduled, call your insurance company and inform them of your upcoming procedure. You will need to provide them with the date of your surgery, procedure type and the phone number for our office. You also should discuss what type of post-surgery services, such as rehabilitation hospital care and home physical therapy, as well as equipment, your insurance carrier covers.

Home Preparations

It is recommended that you plan for your return home prior to your admission to the hospital so that you are as comfortable as possible. We recommend that a family member or friend be with you 24 hours a day for the first week following your surgery. In addition, make sure that you have rides planned from the hospital and to your first follow-up visit, which will be one week after surgery. Also, you will not be able to shower for the first week until the incision heals. Your friend or family member can help you with sponge baths and other hygienic care.

Because your arm will be in a sling for the first four to six weeks following surgery, you should place everything in your house that you use on a regular basis at elbow level. This way you will not have to raise your arm. Also, you will not be able to drive for four to six weeks while you are recovering.

Pack a small suitcase for your hospital stay that includes a list of all medications you are taking, personal hygiene items, comfortable and loose clothing, a knee-length robe and slip-on shoes. Please leave all of your valuables, including jewelry, wallet and watches, at home. It is not necessary to bring your actual medications, however do bring a list of your medications and their dosages, as the hospital will provide you with your medications. Also, we recommend you to bring a phone card.

The Day Before Surgery

Our hospital staff will call to notify you of your surgery and scheduled admission times. You may not eat or drink anything after midnight the night before your surgery. Please take a shower or bath and wash your body thoroughly. Try to rest and go to bed early.


Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.

This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or health care provider. We encourage you to discuss with your doctor any questions or concerns you may have.

Related Information

UCSF Clinics & Centers

Sports Medicine Center
1500 Owens St.
San Francisco, CA 94158
Appointments: (415) 353–2808
Main: (415) 353–9400
Fax: (415) 885–3862

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