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Shoulder Arthroscopy: What You Should Know Before, During, and After Your Surgery

Arthroscopy is a common orthopedic procedure used to visualize, diagnose, and treat various joint problems. It is a minimally invasive procedure that provides quick recovery and little to no complications, unlike traditional open surgeries.

Arthroscopy is most frequently performed on the knees, hips, and shoulders. So if you have a shoulder joint injury or condition, then there’s a huge chance that your doctor will recommend shoulder arthroscopy.

Here’s everything you need to know about this procedure, specifically what to expect before, during, and after the surgery. 

What is shoulder arthroscopy?

Shoulder arthroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure used to treat conditions involving the shoulder joints. An orthopedic doctor usually recommends it when the patient’s condition does not respond well to conservative treatments, such as medications and therapy.

Arthroscopic shoulder surgery involves using a tiny camera (arthroscope) to examine and determine the cause of the shoulder pain and immobility. A set of specialized instruments will also be used to remove damaged tissues and repair the affected joint. 

These surgical instruments will be inserted into the shoulder joints through a small or keyhole-sized incision.

When is shoulder arthroscopy recommended?

Your orthopedic surgeon will likely recommend a shoulder arthroscopy when you have a shoulder condition that does not get better with non-surgical treatments. 

Furthermore, this procedure is performed for shoulder problems that cause severe pain, swelling, deformity, and mobility problems, such as the following ailments:

  • Rotator cuff injury
  • Rotator cuff tendonitis
  • Bicep tendon injury
  • Shoulder impingement
  • Shoulder instability or dislocation
  • Labral tears
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Bone spurs

In rare cases, shoulder arthroscopy may be used to perform uncommon procedures, such as nerve release, cyst excision, and fracture repair in the shoulder.

How to prepare for an arthroscopic shoulder procedure?

Days before the surgery, your doctor will perform a complete medical evaluation to determine if you have any underlying condition that may affect your operation and recovery. Your doctor will also give you important instructions that you need to stick with before the surgery, such as the medications you should not take or when to stop eating and drinking.

Some other personal preparations you may do to ensure a safe and easy post-operative recovery include:

  • Have someone accompany you and drive you home after the surgery.
  • Arrange for someone to help you with daily tasks in your home for just a few days while you recover. 
  • Take a leave off of work for at least a week.
  • Book your physical therapy sessions in advance if your doctor recommends rehabilitative therapy.

What happens during a shoulder arthroscopy?

Before the procedure, an anesthesiologist will administer anesthesia or regional nerve block to numb the nerves in the shoulder and arm. This allows you to stay comfortable and free from any discomfort for the whole operation. 

Then, your doctor will place you in a position that will provide the best access to your affected shoulder. It’s either the beach chair position (reclined sitting position) or lateral decubitus position (lying on the side). Next your surgeon will:

  • Cut 2 to 3 small incisions in the shoulder that will serve as the entry point for the arthroscope and other thin instruments.
  • Inject irrigation fluids into the joint to manage the bleeding and improve joint visualization.
  • Different kinds of specialized instruments will be used to remove damaged tissues, shave bone spurs, and suture muscle tears.
  • Stitch the incisions close, then place a soft bandage to cover the area while it heals.

After the procedure, you’ll be transferred to the recovery area to rest until the anesthesia wears off. You can then go home and continue resting and recovering at home. The whole procedure only takes an hour or two, depending on the severity of your condition.

What to expect after shoulder arthroscopy?

Pain is a normal part of healing after a surgical operation; so it’s normal to experience discomfort during your healing process. It may take at least several weeks for patients with extensive surgery before pain and discomfort subside.

But don’t worry, your doctor will prescribe you with medications to counteract the pain and other symptoms. You’ll also receive specific post-operative instructions to help you heal faster, such as:

  • Staying off of vigorous and stressful activities for a few days, such as exercise, driving, and household chores. You should also avoid repetitive movements and lifting heavy objects.
  • Walk every day to ensure good blood circulation.
  • Sleeping in a reclining position with a thin pillow under your arm.
  • Use a sling as prescribed by your doctor so your shoulders can heal properly.
  • Stick to the incision care provided by your doctor to avoid infection.
  • Make sure to attend your follow-up check-ups regularly.

You’ll be able to do mild activities and return to work after a week or two for mild arthroscopic procedures. However, you should still take it easy and avoid vigorous activities until your doctor says so.

Additionally, physical therapy will play a major role in your recovery. So it’s important to attend every session and stick to your rehabilitation treatment plan.

Shoulder Arthroscopy

How long is the recovery time for shoulder arthroscopy?

Provided that you adhere to your treatment plan, full recovery from minor surgeries can take at least two months or more. For major shoulder arthroscopy, complete recovery can take at least six months. 

Where to find the best outpatient surgery center in Cary?

Raleigh Orthopedic and Panther Creek is one of the leading outpatient surgery centers when it comes to arthroscopic procedures. We have a team of fellowship-trained surgeons on board committed to providing the highest quality of medical care and treatment. 

Contact us now to learn more about shoulder arthroscopy and how it can help treat your condition.

The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.

outpatient orthopedic surgery cary
6715 McCrimmon Parkway
Suite 205 A 
Cary, NC 27519
Monday – Friday: 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
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