Arthroscopic Shoulder Surgery

What is shoulder arthroscopy?

Arthroscopy is a procedure that is used to inspect, diagnose and repair problems inside a joint. During shoulder arthroscopy, a small camera (arthroscope) is inserted into the shoulder joint through a small cut in the skin. The camera displays pictures on a digital display, and your shoulder surgeon uses these images to guide miniature surgical instruments.

Because the arthroscope and instruments are thin, your shoulder surgeon can use very small cuts in the skin rather than with an open, traditional method. This results in less pain for patients, and shortens the time it takes to recover and return to usual activities.

When is shoulder arthroscopy recommended?

Shoulder arthroscopy is recommended when non-surgical treatment options have been attempted and failed, and the operation is able to be performed through this keyhole approach.

Common arthroscopic shoulder surgery procedures include:

  • Rotator cuff repair
  • Bone spur removal (decompression procedures)
  • Removal or repair of the labrum (stabilisation procedures)
  • Repair of ligaments
  • Removal of inflamed tissue or loose cartilage
  • Repair for recurrent shoulder dislocation

Less common procedures include nerve releases, fracture repair and cyst decompression/excision.

What to expect after arthroscopic shoulder surgery

To start the procedure, your shoulder surgeon will insert the arthroscope through a small cut in the skin at the back of the shoulder. Fluid flows through the arthroscope to keep the view clear and control any bleeding. Images from the arthroscope are projected on the digital display showing your orthopaedic surgeon the inside of your shoulder and any damage.

Once the problem is clearly identified, your orthopaedic shoulder surgeon will insert other small instruments through separate incisions to repair it. These skin cuts are usually around the front or side of the shoulder. Specialised instruments are used for tasks like shaving, cutting, grasping, suture passing, and knot tying. In many cases, special devices are used to anchor stitches into bone.

Your surgeon may close your incisions with stitches or steri-strips (small band-aids) and cover them with a waterproof dressing.

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