All About Shoulder Arthroscopy

Long recovery times, risk of infection and the pain associated with large incisions have been mitigated by improvements to modern surgical methods. One such advancement is arthroscopy (pronounced “ahr-THROS-kuh-pee”), which allows for a safer, less invasive option for repairing damaged joints and tissues. The word originates from the Greek “arthro” (join) and “skopein” (to look). As it pertains to the shoulder, arthroscopy allows doctors to understand the extent and severity of an injury or condition without undergoing the risk of invasive surgery.

Popular since the 1970s as an alternative to more invasive surgery, the procedure continues to evolve as new instruments and techniques are developed.

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, shoulder arthroscopy is a “procedure that orthopedic surgeons use to inspect, diagnose, and repair problems inside a joint.” (AAOS) The surgeon inserts a small fiber-optic video camera called an arthroscope through a small cut in the shoulder region and takes pictures and/or video. Your doctor will be able to view the inside of your joint in real time on a high-definition video monitor. Other pencil-thin surgical instruments may be inserted through other small incisions to help repair some types of joint damage. Any necessary incisions will be miniscule compared to the full incision required for a more invasive inspection of the joint area.

Some procedures that are often conducted during shoulder arthroscopy include the following:

  • Repair of torn cartilage and/or ligaments
  • Repair of the rotator cuff
  • Removal of inflamed or scar tissue and/or loose cartilage
  • Repair for frequent shoulder dislocation

Your doctor will determine the appropriate level of anesthesia to be used during your procedure. It is possible that local anesthesia will be used to block sensation in your shoulder and that you’ll be awake for the procedure and feel only pressure or sensation of movement within the joint. It is also possible that general anesthesia will be selected ensure you are unconscious during the procedure, especially if the operation will be longer. General anesthesia is delivered intravenously (through a vein).

It is likely that your arthroscopy will be performed as an outpatient procedure, and you will not need to stay overnight if there are no complications. After the procedure, you will be taken to a separate recovery room for a few hours before you are released to go home. Be sure to follow any aftercare instructions you receive, including a regimen of pain and inflammation mediations and course of physical therapy in the weeks to come.

If you’re suffering from pain or discomfort in your shoulder, arthroscopy may be an excellent option for diagnosis and repair. Our Orthopedic Associates team is experienced in conducting a variety of treatment options for patients with shoulder pain. We help you explore a variety of proven medical procedures, both nonsurgical and surgical, to find the right treatment for you.

Don’t let shoulder pain keep you from enjoying the life you want. Take the time to connect with one of our board-certified physicians today. Click here to schedule an appointment with Orthopedic Associates.