Arthroscopy is a procedure that our orthopedic specialists use to inspect, diagnose, and repair problems inside a joint. During arthroscopic shoulder surgery, the surgeon will insert a tiny camera, called an arthroscope, into your shoulder joint area. This small video camera projects images onto a TV screen so the surgeon can guide miniature surgical instruments to repair damage inside the joint.
This common procedure has been performed thousands of times since the 1970s and it has made the diagnosis, treatment, and recovery of shoulder surgery easier and faster. What’s more, this results in less pain for you, the patient, and shortens the length of time it takes for you to recover.
When is Shoulder Arthroscopy Recommended?
If your condition is not responding to nonsurgical treatment, your orthopedic specialist may recommend arthroscopic shoulder surgery. Some causes of shoulder discomfort include inflammation that leads to pain, stiffness, and swelling; injury; overuse; and age-related wear-and-tear. Some of the most common shoulder arthroscopic procedures include:
- Repair of ligaments
- Rotator cuff repair
- Removal or repair of the labrum
- Bone spur removal
- Removal of inflamed tissue or loose cartilage
- Repair for recurrent shoulder dislocation
What Happens during the Arthroscopic Surgical Procedure?
Your orthopedic specialist will perform this procedure in an operating room or day-surgery room. Once you are there, he will position you so it is easy for him to adjust the arthroscope to have a good look inside the shoulder joint. The most common positions are the beach chair position (you semi-seated in a reclining position) and the lateral decubitus position (you lying on your side). The surgeon and his team remove all hair from the site and then spread an antiseptic solution on your skin to clean it. The shoulder will be draped with sterile pads and your arm will be in a holding device to keep it still and in place.
To inflate and clean out the joint area, the surgeon will inject fluid into your shoulder. This makes it easier for him to see the structures. He will them make a small buttonhole incision to insert the arthroscope. Once your orthopedic specialist clearly identifies the problem, he will use small instruments to repair it. These specialized instruments are for tasks such as cutting, grasping, shaving, suturing, and tying. The surgeon will close these incisions when he is finished using stitches or small Band-Aid like structures called Steri-Strips. Then the surgical site will be covered with a soft, large bandage.
What Should I Expect after Shoulder Arthroscopy?
In most instances, you will be able to return home on the day of your surgery. You will need someone to drive you home, especially if general anesthesia was used. For some patients, the orthopedic specialist requires an overnight hospital stay. Here are some of the things you will need to know following your arthroscopic procedure:
Shoulder Immobility: The amount you are allowed to move your shoulder will all depend on what was done during surgery. Your doctor will give you instructions related to this and be sure you follow them closely. Your shoulder will be held in a sling, a swath, or a brace following the procedure.
Incision Care: The small incisions should be kept clean and dry. Dressings are usually light and kept on for a few days. Sometimes, the dressing will drain during the first 24 hours but it usually stops. Call your orthopedic specialist if the dressing is saturated with blood and the bleeding does not stop.
Ice: Most of our orthopedic specialists recommend that ice be used to the shoulder to control your pain and the swelling. Excessive swelling is not common and should be reported to your doctor. Use the ice for at least 20 minutes around three or four times each day. Do not place the ice directly on the skin but rather use a towel or soft cloth place between your skin and the ice bag.
Medications: There will be some medications prescribed for pain, usually in pill form. Your orthopedic specialist will control your pain as he sees necessary.