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A shoulder arthroscopy is a surgical procedure used to diagnose and treat problems within the shoulder joint. This procedure is minimally invasive and offers a variety of benefits that a traditional open shoulder surgery cannot provide.

What is the Purpose of a Shoulder Arthroscopy?

Your doctor at Comprehensive Medical Care may recommend a shoulder arthroscopy if you experience shoulder pain that does not respond to non-surgical treatments, such as rest, physical therapy, medications, or anti-inflammatory injections.

During a shoulder arthroscopy, your doctor will be able to confirm the source of your shoulder pain and treat it without the need for invasive surgery. Some shoulder injuries that can be diagnosed and treated utilizing a shoulder arthroscopy procedure include:

  • Torn or damaged rotator cuff
  • Torn or damaged labrum
  • Shoulder instability
  • Torn or damaged bice

Benefits of Shoulder Arthroscopy

A shoulder arthroscopy differs from traditional shoulder surgeries in that they give the surgeon the ability to diagnose and treat the problem without having to cut through muscles and other tissues.

Since arthroscopies are significantly less invasive than open surgeries, there are many benefits associated with these procedures, such as:

  • Less muscle and tissue damage
  • Shorter recovery time
  • Fewer stitches
  • Less pain post-procedure
  • Lower risk of infection since smaller incisions are made
  • Risks of Shoulder Arthroscopy

Like any surgery, there are certain risks associated with shoulder arthroscopies. Any surgery can result in:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Infection at incision site
  • Allergic reaction to medications administered during the surgery
  • Anesthesia-induced breathing difficulties

The risks specific to a shoulder arthroscopy, though rare, include:

  • Formation of a blood clot in the joint
  • Joint infection
  • Shoulder stiffness
  • Bleeding inside the shoulder joint
  • Injury or damage to the cartilage, ligaments, meniscus, blood vessels, or nerves

What to Expect From Your Shoulder Arthroscopy

The main tool utilized in any arthroscopy is an arthroscope, which is a specialized kind of endoscope that is used to examine the interior of hollow structures. An arthroscope is attached to a fiber-optic video camera that may be inserted through the skin and soft tissue layers by making a very small surgical cut. After inserted, the view from the fiber-optic technology is transmitted to a high-definition video monitor.

Prior to your shoulder arthroscopy, you will be given a form of anesthetic based on the extent of the arthroscopy.

The procedure begins with a few small incisions in the shoulder, which are used to pump a saline solution into the area so that your joint can expand, allowing the surgeon more visibility into the joint.

Once the shoulder has expanded, the arthroscope enters one of the incisions. Using the fiber-optic camera, the surgeon is able to identify any problems in your shoulder.

Once the issues in your shoulder have been located, the surgeon will either take pictures to confirm a diagnosis or, if possible, correct the issue with small tools during the arthroscopy.

After the surgeon has repaired any problems, the saline will be drained from your joint, and the small incisions will be stitched up. In a majority of cases, the entire procedure takes less than one hour.

Recovery Process of Shoulder Arthroscopy

After your procedure, you should be able to go home within one to two hours. Your recovery will be faster than a traditional open shoulder surgery recovery, but it is still very important to carefully follow your surgeon’s instructions when you get home.

Pain Management

After your procedure, it is perfectly natural to feel pain as a part of the healing process. Medications, like opioids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and other local anesthetics will often be prescribed for short-term pain relief post-surgery. Your doctor may also recommend taking over-the-counter drugs, like aspirin or ibuprofen to lessen the risk of blood clots.


In the initial few days after the procedure, you should keep your arm and upper body elevated as much as possible to alleviate swelling and pain. Applying ice may also be useful in managing swelling.

Dressing Care

After surgery, your shoulder will be covered with a dressing. It is integral to the healing process to keep your incisions clean and dry. Make sure to listen to your surgeon’s recommendations on when to shower and bathe, and how often to change the dressing.

Bearing Weight

To heal your shoulder properly, it is critical to listen to your surgeon’s instructions on when it is safe to use the shoulder again to pick up heavy objects.


One of the most important steps in the recovery process is to complete your shoulder rehabilitation exercises. Prescribed either by your surgeon or a physical therapist, rehabilitation will be able to restore mobility and strength to the muscles in your arm and shoulder so that you may return to your normal function.

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