Shoulder arthroscopy is surgery that uses a tiny camera called an arthroscope to examine or repair the tissues inside or around your shoulder joint. The arthroscope is inserted through a small cut (incision) in your skin.
The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and their tendons that form a cuff over the shoulder joint. These muscles and tendons hold the arm in the shoulder joint and help the shoulder move in different directions. The tendons in the rotator cuff can tear when they are overused or injured.
You will likely receive general anesthesia before this surgery. This means you will be asleep and unable to feel pain. Or, you may have regional anesthesia. Your arm and shoulder area will be numbed so that you do not feel any pain. If you receive regional anesthesia, you will also be given medicine to make you very sleepy during the operation.
During the procedure, the surgeon:
Your surgeon may do one or more of these procedures during your operation:
Surgery for impingement syndrome:
Surgery for shoulder instability:
At the end of the surgery, the incisions will be closed with stitches and covered with a dressing (bandage). Most surgeons take pictures from the video monitor during the procedure to show you what they found and the repairs that were made.
Your surgeon may need to do open surgery if there is a lot of damage. Open surgery means you will have a large incision so that the surgeon can get directly to your bones and tissues.
Arthroscopy may be recommended for these shoulder problems:
Risks of anesthesia are:
Risks of shoulder arthroscopy are:
Tell your health care provider what medicines you are taking. This includes medicines, supplements, or herbs you bought without a prescription.
During the 2 weeks before your surgery:
On the day of surgery:
Recovery can take 1 to 6 months. You will probably have to wear a sling for the first week. If you had a lot of repair done, you may have to wear the sling longer.
You may take medicine to control your pain.
When you can return to work or play sports will depend on what your surgery involved. It can range from 1 week to several months.
Physical therapy may help you regain motion and strength in your shoulder. The length of therapy will depend on what was done during your surgery.
Arthroscopy often results in less pain and stiffness, fewer complications, shorter (if any) hospital stays, and faster recovery than open surgery.
If you had a repair, your body needs time to heal, even after arthroscopic surgery, just as you would need time to recover from open surgery. Because of this, your recovery time may still be long.
Surgery to fix a cartilage tear is usually done to make the shoulder more stable. Many people recover fully, and their shoulder stays stable. But some people may still have shoulder instability after arthroscopic repair.
Using arthroscopy for rotator cuff repairs or tendinitis usually relieves the pain. But you may not regain all of your strength.
SLAP repair; Acromioplasty; Bankart; Shoulder repair; Shoulder surgery
Gartsman GM. Shoulder Arthroscopy. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2008.
Warren RF, ed. Shoulder arthroscopy. In: Rockwood CA, Matsen FA III, Wirth MA, et al., eds. The Shoulder. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2009:chap 20.
Updated by: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial Team.
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