New research to explore shoulder replacements for osteoarthritis sufferers

A new National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) research project will explore shoulder replacements to bring life-changing discoveries to those living with osteoarthritis.  

Deakin University was recently awarded the NHMRC Investigator Grant, which was recently announced by the Minister for Health, the Hon Greg Hunt MP.

Professor Richard Page from our Molecular Medicine theme will lead a five-year project, “Reverse or Anatomical (replacement) for Painful Shoulder Osteoarthritis: Differences between Interventions.” The project has been given over $1.54 million to drive this critical research as a bi-national study with collaborators in the UK and Australia. The UK and Australian trials will follow the same methods and data will be combined in data meta-analyses. 

The Australian team features collaborations from across the country with researchers from The University of Queensland, UNSW Sydney, Monash University and The University of SA. 

Prof Page is Director of Orthopaedic Research at Barwon Health, the Barwon Centre of Orthopaedic Research and Education (B-CORE) and Medical Director of the Barwon Health Bone Bank. Prof Page is also the Deakin University Chair in Orthopaedic Surgery at St John of God Geelong and Barwon Health.

“This is an exciting opportunity to build an evidence base for the best surgical management of shoulder osteoarthritis. Shoulder replacement surgery is the fastest growing type of joint replacement globally and quality evidence is needed to guide treatment in this significantly disabling disease,” says Prof Page.  


Shoulder osteoarthritis is common in older adults, causing severe pain and making daily life difficult. With Australia’s rapidly ageing population and over 29% of Australians experiencing chronic musculoskeletal conditions, there is an evident need to find effective treatments. 

Shoulder replacement works by removing the damaged parts of the shoulder and replacing them with artificial implants. By replacing the damaged joint with metal and plastic implants the surgery is an effective treatment to relieve pain and restore function for debilitating arthritis.  

“The two key types of shoulder replacement in current use are Standard (Anatomic) and Reverse. Reverse was developed to treat arthritis associated with deficient tendons, but its use has been expanded.” Prof Richard Page said.  

However, the best option is unclear as they are yet to be compared in randomised controlled trials. “There are significant differences in cost and potential outcomes, with a rapidly increasing demand. Surgeons and patients want to know which is best in this setting.” Prof Page said. 

Australia has had an enormous 338% increase in total shoulder replacements since 2008, including a doubling in the proportion of reverse shoulder replacements. The two approaches to shoulder replacements will be compared in 450 patients aged over 60 years with shoulder osteoarthritis. 

Prof Page and his team will explore the benefits, harms, and cost-effectiveness of each type of shoulder surgery.  

“Clear evidence is needed to determine the best for effectiveness and value in this life-improving surgery.” Prof Page said. 

Their world-first research will improve the outcomes for patients across Australia and the globe by providing them with the best type of surgery. 

Prof Page is excited about the future of this research venture. “This is a terrific example of world-class research and collaboration across Australia and the UK, to set a benchmark for the best surgical treatment of end-stage shoulder osteoarthritis.” Prof Page said. 

For potential patients, please discuss with your GP and a referral can be made to a participating surgeon once we commence in 2022. For other enquiries please contact Professor Page at