Shoulder arthroscopy refers to a surgical procedure used to diagnose and treat medical problems inside your shoulder joint. If you have an inflamed or damaged joint or experience regular shoulder pain, your doctor may recommend a shoulder arthroscopy.
Typically, shoulder arthroscopy procedures take place either in an outpatient operating room or hospital, meaning you will likely go home the same day. Depending on your condition, your doctor will either give you general anesthesia where you’ll sleep during the procedure or you may receive it through your spine. He or she may also numb the surrounding area with a local anesthetic. Once you’re good and numb, your doctor will perform the procedure by inserting special instruments through a small incision over your joint. He or she will also use an arthroscope with a light and camera lens attached to better see the inside of your joint. From there, your doctor will fill the joint with a sterile fluid to help widen the space to perform the procedure.
Once your doctor widens the space enough, he or she will examine and diagnose your condition and determine what kind of surgery you need. If you require surgery, your doctor may perform it during your arthroscope. However, if your condition requires a more extensive surgery, he or she will drain the sterile fluid and stitch up the incision before scheduling your surgery for a later date.
The recovery period for a shoulder arthroscopy procedure is relatively simple. Like many surgical procedures, you may experience pain and discomfort afterwards. To help, your doctor might prescribe pain medication. In most cases simple over-the-counter medications are enough to dull any discomfort.
Because your doctor has to make incisions near your joint during an arthroscopy procedure, you may return home with surgical bandages that may require replacing over the next few days. Your doctor may also recommend keeping the area clean and dry to prevent infection. If you happen to receive non-dissolvable stitches during the procedure, you may have to return to your doctor’s office in two weeks for a follow-up appointment to have them removed.
In most cases, many patients who undergo an arthroscope procedure will notice a reduction in shoulder stiffness and joint pain. Full recovery takes several weeks, and it may take many months before you’re able to resume normal activities. This is especially true for an avid athlete or someone who actively uses their shoulders for heavy lifting. If you have a job that requires a lot of lifting, you may have to take time off to recover or take on different responsibilities until you’re able to resume your regular tasks.
As with many medical procedures, you may benefit from rehabilitation or physical therapy sessions to help you regain your strength and flexibility. Rehabilitation and physical therapy may also help you recover.
Fortunately, complications with shoulder arthroscopy are rare and may include the following:
If you think you may be experiencing complications, contact your doctor at once.