What Is Shoulder Arthroscopy?

Shoulder arthroscopy is a minimally invasive technique used to evaluate, diagnose and treat a variety of issues within the shoulder. Using thin surgical instruments and a fiber-optic video camera attached to a narrow tube called an arthroscope, the surgeon can perform a variety of procedures within the joint through small, buttonhole incisions. This technique results in less pain and faster recovery times for the patient than traditional open surgery.

Although some shoulder injuries and conditions are best treated with open surgery or non-surgical treatments, shoulder arthroscopy may be recommended for the following issues:

  • Rotator cuff injury – tears or injury to the rotator cuff that have not healed with time or nonsurgical treatments.
  • Bone spurs – painful bone growths that occur within the joint or where muscles, tendons and ligaments attach to the bone.
  • Shoulder instability – partial or complete shoulder dislocation that occurs due to trauma or instability.
  • Bicep tendon injury – tears or injury to the bicep tendon can cause pain, weakness and difficulty with rotation.
  • Labral tear – damage to the ring of cartilage that surrounds the shoulder socket and may cause pain, weakness or catching.
  • Tissue or cartilage damage – tissue inflammation or loose cartilage caused by trauma or wear and tear.

Shoulder arthroscopy is generally performed while the patient is under general anesthesia, allowing him or her to rest comfortably throughout the entire procedure. In some cases, regional anesthesia may be used. During the procedure, the surgeon will make a small incision and insert the arthroscope to examine the tissues in the joint and surrounding areas. Images from the arthroscope will appear on a video monitor in the operating room, allowing your surgeon to clearly identify any damage. Your surgeon will then create additional incisions and insert the necessary instruments to repair the joint. Once the procedure is complete, all instruments are removed and the incisions are closed with sutures or steri-strips (Source: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons).

Shoulder arthroscopy is an effective surgical option with many benefits, but it may not be the preferred method of treatment for your shoulder injury. If you have questions or would like more information about shoulder arthroscopy, schedule a consult with your orthopedic surgeon to discuss the pros and cons of this procedure. Together you can discuss the best treatment options available to you.