Arthroscopic Surgery
What is arthroscopy and arthroscopic surgery?

The diagnosis and treatment of shoulder joint problems have improved greatly since a minimally invasive procedure called arthroscopy was developed. Arthroscopy allows your surgeon to see inside your shoulder and to carry out procedures through tiny incisions.

Arthroscopic surgery can be used to diagnose and treat shoulder injuries.

How does arthroscopy work?

Arthroscopy uses a device called an arthroscope. This tiny, pen-shaped instrument has a micro video camera attached to the end. The arthroscope is inserted through a tiny incision in your shoulder. The camera relays images to a computer screen. Your surgeon can use the images to diagnose the joint problem and to carry out appropriate surgery.

During the surgery, several tiny incisions are made to insert the arthroscope and surgical instruments. First, the surgeon uses the arthroscope to view the shoulder and evaluate the bones, tendons (def.), and ligaments (def.). Then the surgeon uses small instruments to make necessary repairs.

This minimally invasive approach to surgery can help speed recovery, reduce pain, and minimize scarring, when compared with traditional "open" surgery.

  • Patient Jennifer says she is pleased with the results of her arthroscopic surgery, returning to work within a week. "The surgeon did a great job and was very supportive before and after the surgery. He only did what he needed to do during the procedure. I was so happy he could do what he needed to do arthroscopically."

    Jennifer also says she is delighted that her scars are so minimal. "I had two tiny incisions — and one is almost invisible now," she pointed out.

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What can arthroscopic surgery treat?

Arthroscopic surgery may be an option for treating the following shoulder problems:

Your orthopaedic surgeon (def.) can use arthroscopic surgery to perform these and other procedures:

  • Remove small bits of bone or cartilage (def.)
  • Repair or remove torn tendons
  • Remove inflamed synovium (def.) (the membrane that lines the cavity of a synovial joint and produces synovial fluid (def.))
  • Remove inflamed bursae (def.)

Keep in mind that orthopaedic experts say many shoulder patients are seen later than recommended. Individuals who have pain that's more than just a little bruise, ache, or a muscle strain should seek early evaluation, the experts counsel.

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What are the benefits of arthroscopic surgery?

There are potential benefits of arthroscopic surgery when compared with traditional "open" surgery. With arthroscopic surgery, it's more likely that:

  • You'll have less pain following the procedure
  • You'll have a lower risk of complications
  • You'll have a shorter hospital stay or the procedure may be done as out-patient surgery
  • You'll have a quicker recovery
  • You'll have less scarring

Arthroscopic surgery and complying with your physical therapy plan can help jump-start your return to the activities you love.

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What are the risks of arthroscopic surgery?

All surgery has risks:

  • Your orthopaedic surgeon also will discuss the specific risks associated with your procedure and recovery. The risks of orthopaedic surgery depend on your health before surgery and the type of surgery done
  • Your anesthesiologist will discuss the risk associated with the use of anesthesia during your procedure

Some of the things that may be discussed include:

  • Bleeding or other problems during the procedure
  • Damage to joint tissues or nerves around the joint
  • How your individual weight, activity level,age and other factors may affect your outcome

Possible postsurgical complications include:

  • infection
  • excessive swelling or bleeding
  • joint stiffness
  • blood clots in the leg veins (thrombophlebitis)
  • leakage of blood into the joint (hemarthrosis) blood clots that travel to the lung (pulmonary embolus).

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