What is Shoulder Arthroscopy?
Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive diagnostic and surgical procedure performed for joint problems. Shoulder arthroscopy is performed using a pencil-sized instrument called an arthroscope. The arthroscope consists of a light system and camera to project images onto a computer screen for your surgeon to view the surgical site. Arthroscopy is used to treat disease conditions and injuries involving the bones, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, and muscles of the shoulder joint.
The shoulder joint is made up of a ball and socket joint, where the head of the humerus (upper arm bone) articulates with the socket of the scapula (shoulder blade) called the glenoid. The two articulating surfaces of the bones are covered with cartilage, which prevents friction between the moving bones enabling smooth movement. Tendons and ligaments around the shoulder joint provide strength and stability to the joint.
Injury and disease to the bones or soft tissues of the shoulder joint can make it unstable, and lead to pain, inflammation and reduced mobility.
Indications of Shoulder Arthroscopy
Shoulder arthroscopy can help diagnose conditions such as:
- Shoulder Impingement: this occurs when the shoulder blade applies pressure on the underlying soft tissues when the arm is lifted.
- Rotator cuff tears .
- Frozen shoulder or stiffness of the shoulder joint .
- Shoulder Instability: This occurs when the head of the upper arm bone slips out of the socket of the shoulder blade’s glenoid cavity either due to injury or overuse.
- Biceps rupture occurs when the tendons attaching the bicep muscle to the shoulder or elbow tears.
- Damaged cartilage or ligaments.
- Bone spurs or bony projections
- Arthritis of the collarbone.
Diagnostic Shoulder Arthroscopy Procedure
Your surgeon performs shoulder arthroscopy under general or regional anesthesia. You may be positioned lying down on your side with your arm propped up or sitting in a semi-seated position. Sterile fluid is injected into the shoulder joint to expand the surgical area so your surgeon has a clear view of the damage and room to work. A button-sized hole is made in the shoulder and the arthroscope is inserted. Your surgeon can view images captured by the camera in the arthroscope on a large monitor. After the procedure, the instruments are removed and the incisions are closed with stitches or small sterile bandage strips.
Postoperative Care for Shoulder Arthroscopy
The small surgical wounds take a few days to heal and the surgical dressing is replaced by simple Band-Aids. Pain medications are prescribed to keep you comfortable.
Risks and complications of Shoulder Arthroscopy
Complications of shoulder arthroscopy include infection, bleeding, damage to nearby nerves or blood vessels. In certain cases, stiffness of the shoulder joint may occur after the procedure.