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Shoulder Arthroscopy


Arthroscopy is the use of a camera and specialized equipment through small incisions to evaluate, diagnose, and treat problems inside a joint.

What to Expect

Arthroscopy can be used for many conditions including rotator cuff repair, labral repair, decompression, releases, and nerve releases. Through the use of smaller incision, a faster and less painful recovery can be expected.

Arthroscopic surgery is done as an outpatient. Prior to surgery you will be asked to see your primary care doctor for “medical clearance”. They may check blood tests, EKG, and a chest x-ray in addition to other tests they find indicated.

Once surgery is scheduled, the hospital or surgery center will contact you ahead of time to provide specific details about your procedure. Please make sure to ask any questions you have and follow the instructions on when to arrive and especially on when to stop eating or drinking prior to surgery.

On the day of surgery, the anesthesia staff will talk with you about anesthesia options. You will be asleep for the procedure and often a regional nerve block is recommended to numb the shoulder and arm for pain relief.

Once in the operating room, you will be positioned so that a clear view of the inside of your shoulder can be obtained. A member of the surgical team will clean the skin over the shoulder with an antiseptic solution and a sterile drape will cover your shoulder and arm and your forearm will be placed in a holding device to ensure your arm stays still.

Through small incisions about the shoulder fluid flows through the arthroscope to keep the view clear and control any bleeding. Images from the arthroscope are projected on the video screen showing the inside of your shoulder and any damage.

Small instruments are placed through 1-3 separate incisions and can be used to shave, cut, grasp, pass suture, and tie knots. Anchor are often used to hold stitches into bone.

At the completion of surgery the incisions are closed with stitches and covered them with a large, soft bandage.

Postoperatively you will stay in the recovery room for 1 to 2 hours before being discharged home. Nurses will monitor your responsiveness and provide pain medication, if needed. You will need someone to drive you home and stay with you for at least the first night.

Recovery from shoulder arthroscopy depends on the procedure performed but takes several weeks and a few months before full recovery. You may find it comfortable sleeping in a reclining chair or propped up in bed for the first few days after surgery. Physical therapy will play a vital role after surgery in regaining strength and motion.

At the completion of surgery the incisions are closed with stitches and covered them with a large, soft bandage.

Postoperatively you will stay in the recovery room for 1 to 2 hours before being discharged home. Nurses will monitor your responsiveness and provide pain medication, if needed. You will need someone to drive you home and stay with you for at least the first night.

Although recovery from arthroscopy is often faster than recovery from open surgery, it may still take weeks for your shoulder joint to completely recover.

You can expect some pain and discomfort for at least a week after surgery. You will be prescribed pain medicine to help with this discomfort. It is important to ice the shoulder during the first 48 hours.

Patients find that they are more comfortable sleeping in a reclining chair or propped up in bed during the first days after surgery.

Rehabilitation plays an important role in getting you back to your daily activities. An exercise program will help you regain shoulder strength and motion. A rehabilitation plan will be discussed at the first visit based on the intra-operative findings.