Things You Should Know About Arthroscopic Shoulder Surgery
In the past, orthopaedic surgeons would need to make long incisions to access and repair a damaged shoulder. These incisions often left unsightly scars and took a long time to heal. Thankfully, most shoulder surgeries today can be carried out using minimally invasive methods.
Arthroscopic surgeries utilize tiny incisions and a small scope in lieu of large incisions. They’ve become one of the most common surgeries in orthopaedics, with nearly 1.5 million performed each year.
What is a shoulder arthroscopy?
Arthroscopic surgery is a less invasive approach to repairing shoulder damage than traditional open surgery. The surgeon makes two to four small incisions in the shoulder area to look inside using a small scope. From there, small instruments and implants are used to treat a wide variety of injuries.
What can be treated arthroscopically?
The following can often be addressed through arthroscopic shoulder surgery:
- Rotator cuff tears
- Biceps tendon injuries
- Superior labral tears (SLAP tears)
- Shoulder dislocation
- Shoulder instability
- AC joint injuries
- Distal clavicle
Unfortunately, some instances still require open incisions. Many types of fractures, as well as joint replacements, are performed with traditional open surgical methods.
Due to their less-invasive nature, arthroscopic surgeries typically involve shorter recovery times than traditional open surgeries, but the road to recovery can still be difficult. Wearing a sling or living with limited use of the affected arm is common in the weeks following an arthroscopy.
What to expect after surgery
All surgical procedures are different, and your surgeon will have specific postoperative instructions for you. Small incisions can typically get wet in a shower within a few days, and it is common for the affected shoulder to swell due to the procedure or from the saline solution that was pumped through the shoulder during surgery.
Physical therapy is valuable for regaining motion and strength in your shoulder during recovery, and your surgeon will work with you to create a plan that suits your needs.
Shoulder arthroscopies may be commonplace, but they are still significant surgeries. Be sure to ask your surgeon any questions you may have, as well as what you can expect to gain in the long-term.
ALBERT VOLK, MD
Board certifications in Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine. He specializes in an all-arthroscopic rotator cuff repair of the shoulder.