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Disease and injury can have a profound impact and not just on your shoulder. Persistent pain or lack of mobility can affect your ability to perform tasks or enjoy activities. Shoulder arthroscopy is a minimally-invasive way to both diagnose and treat shoulder problems to restore your function and your quality of life with less risk and recovery time. 

Surgeons at the Orthopaedic Institute of Ohio offer arthroscopic options to patients as frequently as possible to ensure our patients get the necessary correction without additional stress on the joint and the body.

Anatomy of the Shoulder

The shoulder consists of a ball-and-socket that provides more flexibility than any other joint of the body. The top of the humerus or upper arm bone fits into a socket in the shoulder blade known as the glenoid. Cartilage covers both the humerus and glenoid to protect the components and a membrane that lubricates them, allowing the shoulder to move smoothly and painlessly. The joint is surrounded by ligaments that hold the parts in position, as well as four tendons that keep the arm bone centered in the socket, known as the rotator cuff.

The complexity of the various working parts of the shoulder joint can leave it vulnerable to disease, overuse and injury. When this occurs to one or more components, the result can be pain and difficulty maneuvering the joint. Shoulder arthroscopy can address problems with any part of the joint anatomy, to provide diagnosis and sometimes treatment without more invasive surgery.

Understanding Shoulder Arthroscopy

The word arthroscopy is rooted in two Greek words — “arthro” (which means “joint”) and “skopein” (which means “to look”). Therefore, the term literally means “to look within the joint.” Doctors have performed shoulder arthroscopy since the 1970s, and improvements are made each year as new tools and techniques are developed.

During an arthroscopic shoulder surgery, your surgeon inserts a pencil-like instrument known as an arthroscope into the joint through a small incision. This device has a small camera which produces images inside your shoulder onto a screen for your doctor to see easily. Using the pictures and other similar tools, your doctor can diagnose your condition and, in many cases, make necessary repairs at the same time. 

Arthroscopic procedures are significantly less invasive than “open” surgeries, giving them a variety of advantages for the right candidate:

  • Lower risk of complications
  • Shortened procedure duration
  • More anesthesia options
  • Outpatient procedure
  • Less tissue trauma
  • Less postoperative pain
  • Reduced downtime
  • Minimal scarring

Options in Shoulder Arthroscopy

Shoulder arthroscopy is an option for a variety of shoulder conditions:

Rotator Cuff Repairs

This less invasive procedure can be useful in repairing torn tendons in the rotator cuff to restore movement to the joint and reduce pain.

Shoulder Impingement

This painful condition occurs when the rotator cuff is compressed or becomes worn over time. Arthroscopic procedures can be used to remove the tissue irritating the rotator cuff surgically.

Shoulder Instability

This condition occurs after a partial or full displacement of the joint, making it more vulnerable to future injury. Often caused by tears to ligaments or the labrum (fibrous cartilage surrounding the glenoid), arthroscopic procedures can repair these tears and stabilize the joint.

Shoulder arthroscopy may also be used to identify and treat inflammatory conditions like bursitis or tendonitis. Our surgeons will carefully assess your situation to determine if arthroscopy might be a good option for you.

Is Shoulder Arthroscopy Right for You?

Overuse, age-related wear and tear, and injury are responsible for most shoulder problems. Your surgeon may recommend shoulder arthroscopy if you have a condition that does not respond to lifestyle changes and nonsurgical treatment. You will likely be considered a good candidate for arthroscopic surgery if you are in good overall health, have realistic expectations and do not require open surgery to address your needs adequately.

If you have certain health risks, a more expansive evaluation may be necessary to confirm your candidacy before your surgery. You may not be eligible if you have active infections or specific medical conditions, or if you have advanced shoulder damage. Your orthopaedic surgeon will determine your candidacy for shoulder arthroscopy during a consultation.

Shoulder Arthroscopy Overview

Shoulder arthroscopy is typically performed using general anesthesia to ensure you are comfortable throughout the procedure. You will be positioned so that your surgeon has a clear view of the inside of your shoulder through the camera. This may mean being in a semi-seated position or on your side, depending on the type of correction required. 

Your surgeon may inject fluid into your shoulder to inflate the joint and make it easier to see the internal structures of your shoulder through the arthroscope. Then, your surgeon will make a short incision or puncture for the arthroscope. Images from the arthroscope will be transmitted to a video screen so your surgeon can locate and identify any damage.

If your condition can be treated arthroscopically, your surgeon will insert small surgical instruments through separate incisions. Your surgeon will use the arthroscope to guide the instruments while making the necessary corrections.

Recovery After Shoulder Arthroscopy 

You will be allowed to go home a few hours after your arthroscopy. There is some pain following the procedure, but it is usually much less than you would experience after more invasive shoulder surgery. You may find that you need little or even no medication to manage the pain. Ice will also help relieve pain and swelling.

Laying flat may cause discomfort in your shoulder (though it will not affect how it heals). Some patients are more comfortable sleeping propped up in bed or sitting in a reclining chair during the first days after surgery.

Our team will provide you with detailed instructions regarding how to care for your incisions, activity restrictions and exercises to perform to support the healing process. You will most likely wear a sling or immobilizer to protect your shoulder. Most patients can begin light exercise in about one week.

Shoulder arthroscopy patients are encouraged to participate in rehabilitation and physical therapy to fully restore the function of the joint. A personalized and professionally monitored exercise program will help you regain shoulder motion and strength.

Request a Consultation to Learn More About Shoulder Arthroscopy

Shoulder pain doesn’t always mean invasive surgery. The Orthopaedic Institute of Ohio provides both nonsurgical and surgical care for shoulder injuries of all kinds, including arthroscopic procedures for qualifying patients. Contact us today at 419-222-6622 to find out if shoulder arthroscopy is an option for you. We look forward to being of service on your journey back to comfort and full mobility.