What is Arthroscopic Shoulder Surgery?
According to the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, more than 1.4 million shoulder arthroscopies are performed worldwide each year.
Arthroscopic Shoulder Surgery, or arthroscopy, is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that uses a small camera called an arthroscope. The arthroscope is inserted through a small incision to examine or repair specific areas within or around the shoulder joint.
Shoulder Arthroscopy Procedures
Your shoulder is the most flexible joint in your body allowing you to place and rotate your arm in many positions in front, above, to the side, and behind your body. This flexibility also makes your shoulder susceptible to instability and injury.
- Should Joint Examination. One of the uses for shoulder arthroscopy is to inspect the shoulder joint and surrounding areas to confirm a diagnosis and determine the extent of injury or disease process. Your surgeon will determine if the minimally invasive procedure can be used for a surgical repair instead of a traditional open surgical procedure.
- Shoulder Joint Surgery. Often when using shoulder arthroscopy to make or confirm a diagnosis, surgery is performed to correct conditions affecting muscles, cartilage, joints or ligaments in the shoulder damaged as a result of injury, disease or aging. By performing the surgery during the arthroscopic examination, the surgeon is able to perform a repair without having to inconvenience the patient with a second procedure. By doing so, this eliminates the need for a large incision minimizing blood loss and discomfort helping to speed recovery.
Conditions treated using Shoulder Arthroscopy
Depending on the complexity of the repairs that need to be made, shoulder arthroscopy may be used to correct the following conditions:
- Cartilage or ligaments that have been torn or damaged
- Shoulders with instability where a shoulder joint is loose and/or the shoulder dislocates and slips out of the ball and socket joint becoming dislocated
- Biceps tendon that is torn or damaged
- Torn rotator cuff
- Bone spurs or inflammation around the rotator cuff
- Joint inflammation or damage caused by an illness such as arthritis
- Loose tissue that interferes with movement and has to be removed
- Shoulder impingement where movement is impaired
Preparation for surgery
Most arthroscopic shoulder surgery is performed as an outpatient procedure under general anesthesia, eliminating the need for a hospital stay. Preparations two weeks prior to your surgery can include:
- Stop taking drugs that make it harder for your blood to clot including aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Naprosyn, Aleve), and other drugs.
- Asking your health care provider which drugs you can continue to take.
- Telling your surgeon if you have diabetes, heart disease or other medical conditions.
- Telling your health care provider if you drink alcohol and how frequently.
- Stopping smoking since it can slow down healing.
- Letting your health care provider know if any illnesses like the flu, cold, fever etc.
On the day of your surgery you will usually be asked not to drink or eat for 6 to 12 hours before surgery and if necessary, take the approved medications with a small amount of water.
Recovery can take anywhere from 1 to 6 months. You may have to wear a sling for a length of time that will be determined by the complexity of your procedure. Pain medication may be prescribed to help control pain. Returning to work or playing sports will depend upon the extent of the surgery and can range from 1 week to several months. For many procedures, physical therapy will be prescribed to help you regain motion and strength.
The minimally invasive nature of arthroscopic surgery will result in less pain, stiffness, fewer complications, shorter hospital stays if any (depending on the complexity of the procedure) and faster recovery sometimes.
Outcomes for most arthroscopic shoulder procedures are highly successful in eliminating pain and providing excellent range of motion. However where surgery is performed to correct stability problems, some patients may still have the instability. Additionally, rotator cuff surgery may provide significant pain relief but result in not being able to regain complete strength.