Arthroscopic shoulder surgery involves the use of small incisions and special tools to treat shoulder conditions in a minimally invasive way.
Conditions that may benefit from this kind of treatment include: shoulder dislocations, impingement and rotator cuff conditions.
Because the arthroscope and surgical instruments are thin, very small incisions (cuts), can be used, rather than the larger incisions needed for standard, open surgery. This results in less pain for patients and shortens the time it takes to recover and return to regular activities.
Shoulder arthroscopy has been performed since the 1970s. It has made diagnosis, treatment, and recovery from surgery easier and faster than was once thought possible. Improvements to shoulder arthroscopy occur every year as new instruments and techniques are developed.
Your shoulder is a complex joint that is capable of more motion than any other joint in your body. It is made up of three bones: your upper arm bone (humerus), your shoulder blade (scapula), and your collarbone (clavicle).
Ball and socket. The head of your upper arm bone fits into a rounded socket in your shoulder blade. This socket is called the glenoid. A slippery tissue called articular cartilage covers the surface of the ball and the socket. It creates a smooth, frictionless surface that helps the bones glide easily across each other.
The glenoid is ringed by strong fibrous cartilage called the labrum. The labrum forms a gasket around the socket, adds stability, and cushions the joint.
Shoulder capsule. The joint is surrounded by bands of tissue called ligaments. 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. Four tendons surround the shoulder capsule and help keep your arm bone centered in your shoulder socket. This thick tendon material is called the rotator cuff. The cuff covers the head of the humerus and attaches it to your shoulder blade.
Bursa. There is a lubricating sac called a bursa between the rotator cuff and the bone on top of your shoulder (acromion). The bursa helps the rotator cuff tendons glide smoothly when you move your arm.
When Shoulder Arthroscopy Is Recommended?
Your doctor may recommend shoulder arthroscopy if you have a painful condition that does not respond to nonsurgical treatment. Nonsurgical treatment includes rest, physical therapy, and medications or injections that can reduce inflammation and allow injured tissues to heal. Inflammation is one of your body’s normal reactions to injury or disease. In an injured or diseased shoulder joint, inflammation causes swelling, pain, and stiffness.
Injury, overuse, and age-related wear and tear are responsible for most shoulder problems. Shoulder arthroscopy may relieve painful symptoms of many problems that damage the rotator cuff tendons, labrum, articular cartilage, and other soft tissues surrounding the joint.
Common arthroscopic procedures include:
- Rotator cuff repair
- Removal or repair of the labrum
- Repair of ligaments
- Removal of inflamed tissue or loose cartilage
- Repair for recurrent shoulder dislocation
Less common procedures such as nerve release, fracture repair, and cyst excision can also be performed using an arthroscope. Some surgical procedures, such as shoulder replacement, still require open surgery with more extensive incisions.
Most patients do not experience complications from shoulder arthroscopy. As with any surgery, however, there are some risks. These are usually minor and treatable. Potential problems with arthroscopy include infection, excessive bleeding, blood clots, and damage to blood vessels or nerves.
After surgery, you will feel some pain. This is a natural part of the healing process. Your doctor and nurses will work to reduce your pain, which can help you recover from surgery faster. Medications are often prescribed for short-term pain relief after surgery. Many types of medicines are available to help manage pain, including opioids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and local anaesthetics. A combination of these medications may improve pain relief, as well as minimise the need for opioids.
Be aware that although opioids help relieve pain after surgery, they are a narcotic and can be addictive. It is important to use opioids only as directed by your doctor. As soon as your pain begins to improve, stop taking opioids. Talk to the orthopaedic team if your pain has not begun to improve within a few days of your surgery.
In addition to medicines for pain relief, you may also be recommended medication such as aspirin, clexane or Xarelto to lessen the risk of blood clots.
Keep your leg elevated as much as possible for the first few days after surgery. Apply ice as recommended by your doctor to relieve swelling and pain.
You will leave the hospital with a dressing covering your knee. Keep your incisions clean and dry. Instructions will be given which will tell you when you can shower or bathe, and when you should change the dressing (usually 1 week). The orthopaedic team will see you in the office a few days after surgery to check your progress, review the surgical findings, and begin your postoperative treatment program.
Many patients need crutches or other assistance after arthroscopic surgery. In most cases you will be able to weight bear. If thing differ, Dr Hutabarat will tell you when it is safe to put weight on your foot and leg. If you have any questions about bearing weight, please call the hospital or the rooms.
You should exercise your shoulder regularly for several weeks after surgery. This will restore motion and strengthen the muscles. Therapeutic exercise will play an important role in how well you recover. A formal physical therapy program may improve your final result.
Dr Hutabarat will discuss with you when you may drive. Typically, patients are able to drive from <1 to 3 weeks after the procedure.
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