Orthopedic surgeons will recommend shoulder arthroscopy if the patient struggles with a painful condition that fails to respond to non-invasive treatment and for those who have suffered a severe injury.
Shoulder arthroscopy can alleviate the bothersome symptoms of numerous problems damaging the labrum, rotator cuff tendons, articular cartilage, and other tissues surrounding the shoulder joint.
It is a minimally invasive approach that will not require the patient to spend the night in the hospital, and that promotes faster and safer recovery. Only patients who have certain health risks will have to spend a day or two in the hospital under constant medical supervision so as to avoid any serious complications.
Before deciding if the patient is a good candidate for shoulder arthroscopy, their physician will order a series of tests and exams, such as blood tests, an electrocardiogram, or chest X-rays. Some of the most common arthroscopic procedures involving the shoulder include:
Less frequently performed arthroscopic surgeries for the shoulder are nerve release, fracture repair, and cyst excision. However, certain surgical procedures that are more complex cannot be performed arthroscopically, such as a shoulder replacement. These will require traditional, open surgery with larger incisions.
In the operating room, the patient will be positioned so that the orthopedic surgeon can easily adjust the arthroscope to clearly see the inside of the shoulder. The most common patient positions for arthroscopic shoulder surgery are:
The surgeon will make a small puncture in the shoulder for the arthroscope. Fluid will flow through it to keep the view clear and control any bleeding. Afterward, the surgeon will insert other small medical instruments through separate incisions to treat the problem. Specialized instruments are used for tasks such as shaving, cutting, grasping, suture passing, and knot tying. Often, special devices are used to anchor stitches into bone.
After surgery, the patient will have to stay in the recovery room for 1 to 2 hours before being discharged. Even though recovery from shoulder arthroscopy is generally faster than recovery from open surgery, it may still take between a few weeks and a few months for the shoulder joint to completely recover.
The patient can expect mild pain and discomfort for several weeks after the surgery. If they had a more complex procedure, it might take longer before the pain subsides. Ice can help relieve pain and swelling, and their physician can prescribe pain medication if necessary.