Shoulder Arthroscopy

Shoulder Arthroscopy

Shoulder arthroscopy is a type of surgery used to diagnose and treat shoulder problems. Your healthcare provider repairs your shoulder through tiny incisions. Shoulder arthroscopy is an outpatient procedure, meaning you can go home the same day. Though full recovery can take weeks or months, exercise and physical therapy can help with healing.

What is shoulder arthroscopy?

Shoulder arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgery used to diagnose and treat shoulder problems. You might have arthroscopy for rotator cuff tears or shoulder impingement. Minimally invasive procedures require smaller incisions than traditional surgery. Each incision is about the size of a keyhole.

Your surgeon inserts a small camera called an arthroscope through a tiny incision in your skin. This camera projects pictures of your shoulder joint to a video screen. Your provider looks at these images to find the source of your injury. If you need a shoulder repair, the provider uses miniature surgical instruments to restore your shoulder’s mobility.

Why is shoulder arthroscopy done?

Shoulder arthroscopy helps healthcare providers find and treat shoulder pain that has not responded to nonsurgical treatments. Nonsurgical treatments for shoulder pain include physical therapy, medication, injections and rest.

What shoulder injuries does arthroscopic shoulder surgery treat?

Shoulder arthroscopy can remove inflamed tissue. It can also treat injuries such as:

  • Biceps tendon injuries.
  • Bone spurs.
  • Frozen shoulder.
  • Labrum tears, injuries to the tissue around your shoulder socket.
  • Osteoarthritis.
  • Rotator cuff tears.
  • Rotator cuff tendinitis.
  • Shoulder impingement syndrome.
  • Shoulder instability, when your shoulder joint becomes loose or dislocated.
What is the recovery time after shoulder surgery?

Your shoulder joint will take weeks to months to completely heal after shoulder arthroscopy. You may notice pain and swelling for at least several weeks.

Ice and pain medication can help with pain relief. You can also try sleeping propped up in a chair or bed for a few days after your surgery. Your surgeon may recommend a sling to protect your shoulder.

A rehabilitation plan includes gentle exercise and physical therapy. It can increase your shoulder movement and strength. Your healthcare provider will give you a rehab plan that suits your specific shoulder surgery.

When can I go back to work/school/drive/eat?
When you can return to your everyday life depends on the complexity of your surgery. If you’ve had a minor procedure, you may be able to return to work or school in a few days. You’ll need longer to recover from more major procedures. Your healthcare provider will offer guidance suitable for your recovery.
What happens during shoulder arthroscopy?

Shoulder arthroscopy usually takes less than an hour. During shoulder arthroscopy:

  1. You will be in a semi-seated position (beach chair position) or lying on your side.
  2. Your surgical team will shave hair (if needed) and clean your skin with an antiseptic solution. They may place your arm in a holding device to make sure it stays still.
  3. A healthcare provider may inject fluid into your shoulder. The fluid inflates your shoulder joint, making it easier for the surgeon to see.
  4. Your surgeon makes a small hole, usually about the size of a buttonhole, in your shoulder. They insert the tiny camera (arthroscope) into this incision.
  5. The camera projects images of your shoulder to a video screen. Your surgeon uses these images to find the problem with your shoulder.
  6. Your surgeon makes other small cuts in your shoulder and inserts tiny instruments.
  7. Once your surgical team finishes your surgery, they close the incisions. You may have stitches or small bandages, with a large bandage on top.
What happens after shoulder arthroscopy?

Shoulder arthroscopy is an outpatient procedure, meaning you can go home the same day. The entire process usually takes less than an hour.

You’ll need to recover for an hour or two at the hospital after surgery. Your providers will offer pain medication if needed. After that, you’ll need a ride home. It’s best if a family member or friend can spend the night with you.

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