Shoulder arthroscopy

Shoulder arthroscopy is minimally invasive and is conducted to diagnose and treat problems which affect the joint. This includes disease, subacromial impingement, rotator cuff tears, slap lesions, shoulder instability (Bankart lesions), acromioclavicular osteoarthritis, frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis) and removal of loose of bodies.

The arthroscopic procedure

  • The patient undergoes general anesthesia
  • His/her skin is disinfected and a sterile drape is used to cover the non-operative site
  • In most cases the surgeon makes three small incisions by the shoulder joint
  • Saline (sterile salt water) is then pumped into the joint to expand it; this creates space for the arthroscope and other tools to be guided to the problem area
  • The arthroscope, once inserted into the joint, aids the surgeon in his investigation for any trauma, disease or degenerative changes
  • Treatment is carried out through the second or third incision, with specially designed medical tools
  • The incisions are sutured at the end of the operation and a sterile bandage is applied

An Arthroscope is a slender telescope fitted with a lens system and fibreoptic illumination; it projects a magnified image of the inside of a joint onto a television monitor. The surgeon uses the arthroscope to see the structures of the shoulder during the diagnosing or operating stage.

Shoulder arthroscopy is recommended to a patient when they are experiencing ongoing pain or discomfort. In most cases, non-surgical treatments are carried out first. If they are not a sufficient treatment, arthroscopy is performed.

The common causes for arthroscopic shoulder surgery are injury, overuse (through repetitive motion), diseases and age-related degenerative changes. It is important to treat damages, as they can escalate to more severe conditions.

Symptoms of an unhealthy joint include:

  • loss of mobility and strength
  • pain
  • clicking or popping when the arm is raised or lowered
  • stiffness in the joint
  • swelling

For non-surgical treatment please see Arthroscopy.

Shoulder Arthroscopy Treats

  • Subacromial impingement syndrome; the cause can be, the repetitive raising of the arm to shoulder height or higher. In effect, it makes the space between the acromion (an important bone at the end of the scapula) and the rotator cuff narrow. This recurring movement, causes friction between the joint tissue and leads to irritation, pain and inflammation
  • Rotator cuff tears; when the tendons supporting and moving the shoulder joint get torn. The cause may be wear and tear or injury related
  • Bursitis; inflammation in the bursa, (a small fluid-filled sac that acts as a sliding surface between the surrounding tissue) which causes swelling and fluid build-up
  • SLAP or Bankard lesions; A damaged or torn Labrum (cartilage ring) that causes the shoulder to become unstable. It is caused by, degeneration or shoulder dislocation
  • Arthritis; this disease causes inflammation and deterioration in the surfaces of the joint. There are many types of arthritis such as, infectious, degenerative, metabolic or inflammatory
  • Frozen shoulder (Adhesive Capsulitis); occurs with injury, overuse or disease (diabetes/stroke) and causes scar tissue to form around the joint. As a result, patients experience pain, stiffness and limited range of movement
  • Loose bodies in the shoulder; this can be cartilage or bone that have broken off the shoulder blade or femoral head that should be removed

Operation and recovery times are affected by the severity of a patient’s condition and his/her overall health.

Patients who undergo shoulder arthroscopy experience substantial pain relief and rehabilitation of function that leads to a better quality of living.