Shoulder arthroscopy is a type of surgery to examine or repair the tissues inside or around your shoulder joint. The procedure uses a small camera, called an arthroscope, which is inserted through a small incision. If the surgeon is going to repair the joint, small surgical instruments are also used, such as a shaver to remove unwanted tissue.
Arthroscopy may be recommended for shoulder problems, such as:
An arthroscopy can take up to one and a half hours, depending on whether your surgeon is finding out the cause of your shoulder pain or repairing the shoulder joint.
Once the anaesthesia has taken effect, small cuts (about 5mm long) are made in the skin around the shoulder that is being treated. Sterile fluid is injected into the joint to help produce a clearer picture. The arthroscope is inserted through one of these cuts into the joint.
Your surgeon will then look at the joint, either directly through the arthroscope, or at pictures it sends to the monitor. If necessary, other instruments can be inserted to repair any damage or remove material that may be interfering with movement or causing pain in the shoulder.
The surgeon will look around the entire joint to check the cartilage, tendons, and ligaments of the shoulder. If damaged tissues need to be repaired, the surgeon will make 1 to 3 additional small incisions to insert other instruments. These may include a blunt hook to pull on tissues, a shaver to remove damaged or unwanted tissues, and a burr to remove bone. In addition to working on the shoulder joint, the surgeon often places the camera in the space above the rotator cuff tendons (the subacromial space). The surgeon can evaluate the area above the rotator cuff, clean out inflamed or damaged tissue, remove a bone spur, and fix a rotator cuff tear.
At the end of the procedure, the fluid is drained out of the joint and any cuts are closed. Dressings will be used to cover the cuts.