Sunday, November 25, 2012

Appearance of the shoulder one week after arthroplasty

Occasionally, patients or their families express concern about the appearance of the shoulder one week after shoulder arthroplasty. As a frame of reference, the swelling and discoloration of the left arm and chest shown below is common. 

The swelling and discoloration result from the fact that at surgery we systematically remove bone spurs (osteophytes) that would otherwise block shoulder motion. This bone spur removal leaves a cut surface of the bone which can bleed for a day or so after surgery, especially when early range of motion exercises are implemented (as we do routinely). The blood coming from the raw bone edges disperses along the chest and down the arm (resulting in the swelling and discoloration) and is then absorbed by the body. Resolution of the swelling can be accelerated by (1) keeping the arm elevated at chest level when it is not being used and (2) squeezing a ball to pump the swelling away.


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