Reverse anatomy shoulder prostheses, in which a partial sphere is attached to the scapula and a socket to the humerus, have become popular for the treatment of arthritic shoulders with severe rotator cuff arthropathy. While they have been in relatively common use, their biomechanical aspects have not been fully investigated.

This study uses an adaptation of a 3D biomechanical shoulder model to describe the DELTA reverse prosthetic shoulder geometry and to investigate its properties. The muscle configuration was modified to represent the pathology and joint contact forces were computed for standardised activities.The model also uses a contact detect algorithm to record the impingement of the prosthesis with the scapula.

Results showed that the reverse design increases the deltoid function compensating for the dysfunctional rotator cuff muscles by providing sufficient moment arm (increased by 42%) to elevate the arm. It also restores joint stability by reversing the envelope of the joint contact forces and reacting to the increased shear forces. Despite these advantages, the model also confirms impingement and predicts bone notches from the contact of the prosthesis with the scapula border. Results indicate that optimised fixation and design alterations can reduce the problem but is difficult to eliminate it without compromising the joint stability.

The study provides a deep understanding of the function of the reverse designs highlighting their advantages in irreparable rotator cuff arthropathy but also the associated problems that compromise their use. Despite the limitations results indicate that reverse designs can be optimised to provide maximum functionality.

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