What is Shoulder Arthroscopy?

richardAn arthroscopy is a procedure that orthopedic surgeons use to look at, diagnose and repair problems in joints. It comes from the Greek words arthro (joint) and skopein (to look). It means literally to look within the joint. To do this, your surgeon will insert a small camera called an arthroscopy into your shoulder joint. The camera displays the pictures on a screen, and the surgeon uses them to diagnose the problem and then guide tiny surgical instruments to make the needed repairs.

Since the arthroscopy and surgical instruments are so thin, the surgeon makes tiny incisions instead of the larger ones that are typically used for open, standard surgeries. This results in less pain for the patients and less scarring—not to mention it shortens the time it takes to recover and start participating in your favorite activities again.

Surgeons have been performing shoulder arthroscopy since the 1970s. This procedure has made diagnosis, treatment and recovery time from the surgery much faster and easier than was ever thought to be possible. And the procedure keeps improving with the many technological advances that come each year.

But do you qualify for an arthroscopy? Will it help you? First, you should try nonsurgical treatments, such as physical therapy, rest, medications, or injections. These should help with general pain or inflammation and other typical bodily reactions to disease or injury. In a diseased or injured should joint, the inflammation cause pain, swelling and stiffness. However, if your injury is not responding to any of these nonsurgical treatments, your doctor might recommend arthroscopy.

Most shoulder injuries are caused by overuse, injury or age-related wear and tear. Shoulder arthroscopy can relive the pain of many problems, such as damage to the labrum, rotator cuff tendons, particular cartilage and other soft tissues which surround the joint.

Typical arthroscopic procedures include:

  • Bone spur removal.
  • Repairing rotator cuffs.
  • Ligament repair.
  • Repair or removal of the labrum.
  • Repair for shoulder dislocation that is recurrent.
  • Swollen synovium.

Procedures which are not as common include fracture repair, nerve release and cyst excision. Surprisingly, these can also be done with an arthroscope. Some surgical procedures, however, still need open surgery that includes the larger incisions. Talk to your doctor about your options today!