Do You Need a Shoulder Arthroscopy?

Shoulder pain can be challenging to live with and can keep you from the people and activities you love. If you have consistent shoulder pain despite attempting conservative treatments, it may be time to consider surgery. A shoulder arthroscopy is a minimally invasive orthopaedic procedure for the purpose of inspecting, diagnosing and treating conditions inside the shoulder joint. An arthroscope is a thin device that is inserted into the shoulder joint and acts as a camera. This camera displays 4k quality images on a video monitor which your surgeon uses to guide miniature surgical instruments. 

The 4 mm size of an arthroscope is one of its most beneficial aspects. The incision a surgeon needs to make to insert an arthroscope is small due to how thin it is which spares supporting muscles. Patients experience less pain and can return to their favorite activities in a shorter amount of time.

Over the years, shoulder arthroscopies have become relatively common. As a result, diagnosis, treatment, and recovery from surgery have been simplified and accelerated. The development of new instruments and techniques improves shoulder arthroscopy every year. 

BEST takes pride in its minimally invasive procedures and our board-certified surgeons can perform shoulder arthroscopy on an outpatient basis. In addition, we believe patient education is one of the most important aspects of a patient’s journey to recovery. Read through this guide to have a better understanding of shoulder arthroscopy.  

Anatomy of the Shoulder

The joints in your body are all complex structures and the shoulder is no exception. The shoulder specifically is capable of more motion than any other joint. There are three bones that make up the shoulder: your upper arm bone (humerus), your shoulder blade (scapula), and your collarbone (clavicle). The following is a breakdown of the shoulder’s anatomy: 

Ball and socket. Your upper arm bone fits into a rounded socket in your shoulder blade. This socket is the glenoid. Articular cartilage, a slippery tissue, covers both the ball and socket. This low-friction surface allows bones to glide easily over one another.

Labrum. A fibrous cartilage called the labrum surrounds the glenoid. The labrum forms a gasket around the socket, adds stability, and cushions the joint.

Shoulder capsule. Bands of tissue called ligaments surround a joint. As a result, they form a capsule that holds the joint together. The undersurface of the capsule is lined by a thin membrane called the synovium. It produces synovial fluid that lubricates the shoulder joint.

Rotator cuff. To keep your arm bone in the shoulder socket, four tendons surround the shoulder capsule. These tendons are the rotator cuffs. The cuff covers the head of the humerus and attaches it to your shoulder blade.

Bursa. The rotator cuff and the bone on top of your shoulder (acromion) are separated by a lubricating sac called a bursa. Your arm moves smoothly with the help of the bursa when you move your rotator cuff tendons.

When To Consider a Shoulder Arthroscopy

The shoulder joint is very susceptible to injuries and age-related conditions due to its high tolerance for stress. Conservative treatment such as physical therapy, therapeutic injections, and over-the-counter medications is typically the first step of a treatment plan after the initial diagnosis. In cases where nonsurgical treatments have been exhausted without providing the relief needed to engage in daily activities, surgical procedures may become an option. 

In situations where the joint is relatively undamaged, arthroscopy can treat shoulder pain and dysfunction without replacing the joint. Shoulder arthroscopies are commonly used to treat the following conditions and injuries: 

  • Rotator cuff injuries and tears
  • Arthritis-related bone growth or tissue inflammation
  • Recurring shoulder dislocation
  • Labral tears
  • Arthroscopy can also be used as a diagnostic procedure to confirm a condition that is not showing clear imagery such as an X-ray or MRI. 

What to Expect From Shoulder Arthroscopy

Despite surgery’s potential for concern, BEST does everything to ensure the procedure runs smoothly for our patients. Several evaluations will be performed before deciding whether you need a shoulder arthroscopy. Your doctor will review your symptoms, medical and family history, and the type of life you lead. All these items factor into whether shoulder arthroscopy is right for you. Your doctor will go over and consider your general health before the procedure as well.

Once the procedure has been decided it will be performed on an outpatient basis. A shoulder arthroscopy allows surgeons to avoid having to cut through muscles, tendons, and ligaments which would be typical for traditional open-shoulder surgery. 

When the surgeon accesses the shoulder, they will use microsurgical tools to perform tendon, labral or ligament repair, or remove damaged tissue that is causing pain and mobility problems. After the procedure, the small incisions are sewn up and typically heal in a shorter period than most invasive procedures. 

After the procedure, the patient will receive detailed post-operative instructions, including guidance for incision care and when to resume normal activities. For most shoulder procedures, patients should not drive for a period lasting three or four weeks.  Patients may require the use of a sling to stabilize the shoulder while the tissues are healing. Patients may need to undergo physical therapy sessions that help to restore the range of motion and strength in the joint.

How BEST Health System Can Help

At BEST Health System, we perform shoulder arthroscopy as well as other procedures. We take pride in our minimally invasive surgical options. Dr. Girton and Dr. Abbott, our board-certified surgeons, perform our minimally invasive procedures on an outpatient basis. Compared to traditional surgery, our minimally invasive procedures are much more effective. We use muscle-sparing techniques which result in a shorter recovery time, less risk for complications, and eliminate the need for an overnight hospital stay. 

In addition to minimally invasive procedures we also now offer physical therapy as a treatment option as well as MRI as a diagnostic imaging option. 

BEST strives to help you get back to the activities and people you love. If you want to learn more about BEST Health System and what we offer, feel free to contact us today.