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What Is Arthroscopic Shoulder Surgery?

What Is Arthroscopic Shoulder Surgery?

Shoulder injuries can be incredibly limiting. Damage to your rotator cuff and shoulder joint can cause severe pain as well as stiffness and a reduced range of motion, making your everyday life difficult. While some forms of shoulder injuries are caused by acute damage, such as car accidents or sports injuries, many forms of shoulder injuries occur gradually, such as damage caused by repetitive use. No matter the cause of injury, when conservative, non-invasive methods of treatment fail, arthroscopic shoulder surgery is a minimally-invasive option to address and repair shoulder injuries.

What You Need To Know About Arthroscopic Shoulder Surgery

Arthroscopic surgery uses a tool called an arthroscope, which is a small camera that is inserted during surgery to examine the tissue in and around the joint. The arthroscope is inserted so that your surgeon can see what needs to be repaired without the need to make a large incision. This form of minimally invasive shoulder surgery leaves the patient with few scars and smaller areas of healing while still addressing the cause of shoulder pain and stiffness. Arthroscopic shoulder surgery doesn’t always involve repairs and can instead be used to assess the damage to the shoulder through the use of the arthroscope. Non-invasive forms of treatment are typically used first and if those fail your surgeon may recommend arthroscopic shoulder surgery.

What Does Arthroscopic Shoulder Surgery Address?
Arthroscopic shoulder surgery is often used to address shoulder problems that aren’t severe enough to warrant more invasive types of shoulder surgery. This type of shoulder surgery can be used to diagnose and treat shoulder injuries so that open shoulder surgery is avoided unless absolutely necessary. Arthroscopic shoulder surgery is typically performed when:

  • There is a tear or damage in the cartilage or ligament of the shoulder.
  • A shoulder joint is loose or dislocated.
  • The rotator cuff is torn.
  • The bicep tendon is torn or damaged.
  • There is damage to the lining of a joint.
  • There is a bone spur or inflammation around the rotator cuff.
  • Arthritis is affecting the collarbone.
  • Shoulder impingement syndrome is limiting shoulder mobility.

To learn if arthroscopic shoulder surgery is right for you, read
Are You A Candidate For Minimally Invasive Arthroscopic Shoulder Surgery?

What Happens During Arthroscopic Shoulder Surgery?
Typically, a general anaesthetic is used to keep the patient comfortable during arthroscopic shoulder surgery. The surgeon will make at least two incisions: one for the arthroscope and one for the surgical tool. Sometimes more than one incision will be needed for the surgical tool depending on the location and type of injury. The arthroscope is used to view the damaged cartilage, ligaments, tendons, and bones and the surgical tool will be used to make repairs.

Arthroscopic Shoulder Surgery In Kelowna

If you are experiencing shoulder joint pain which is not responding to non-surgical treatment, it is advisable to book a consultation with a reputable Kelowna surgeon to determine if an arthroscopic shoulder surgery is the right choice for you. The orthopedic surgeons at our Kelowna private hospital will provide early diagnosis and effective treatment that will make a significant difference to your overall health and lifestyle in the long run. To book your complimentary consultation call us at 1-250-868-9799 or fill out the online contact form.


Q: What is the recovery period like after orthopedic surgery on my shoulder?
A: To ensure the treatment successfully restores joint function, it is important to follow your surgeon’s advice during your recovery period

  • Rest whenever you feel tired, and ensure you have adequate, quality sleep. 
  • Your doctor may prescribe pain medication to reduce discomfort, along with care instructions such as when to ice your shoulder, and when to check back for a follow-up visit.
  • If your arm and shoulder are uncomfortable, you may want to keep a thin pillow under your arm when you lay down. 
  • Walking increases blood flow, and promotes healing, however, avoid heavy lifting for a couple of weeks. Be cautious about activities requiring repetitive movements, such as housework, computer use, or writing. 
  • Initially, the shoulder must be protected from overuse or stressing the repair while the shoulder heals using a sling and a recommended rehabilitation program. 

Many patients who undergo arthroscopic procedures feel comfortable long before the procedure site fully heals, probably because they were spared from large incisions and dissection through the muscle tissues. Recovery of comfort and function following shoulder procedures may continue over a few months depending on the nature of the issue, and the extent of the repair.

Q: How long does it take to recover from shoulder arthroscopy?
A: The standard answer to this question is 4-6 weeks of recovery, but the length of time can vary based on the extent of injury, and your physical condition prior to the procedure. Perhaps the best thing about a shoulder arthroscopy procedure is that you get to go home on the day of the surgery. Directly after surgery, you’ll spend a couple of hours in a recovery room for observation before being discharged. You’ll need someone to drive you home and spend the night, but you can recover at home. Patients may experience pain for a few weeks post-surgery and may have to wear a sling to protect the shoulder for the first couple of weeks. Physical therapy may help you ease postoperative stiffness, regain motion, and rebuild strength in your shoulder. Some patients are able to return to sports or regular physical activities in just a few months. 

Q: Are there risks associated with orthopedic shoulder surgery?
A: The risks and complications of an arthroscopic procedure are minimal and occur in less than one percent of all arthroscopic surgeries. However, some possible risks and complications of arthroscopic surgery may include:

  • Infection
  • Swelling or bleeding
  • Blood clots 
  • Damage to nerves or blood vessels
  • Anaesthetic-related concerns

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