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Shoulder Arthroscopy

The shoulder can perform movements in more directions and to greater extents than any other joint in our body. But because it can perform so many movements, the shoulder is vulnerable to stress and injury. Shoulder injuries are very common, especially among people who play sports that require overhead arm motions. 

Arthroscopy is a procedure that orthopaedic surgeons use to inspect, diagnose, and repair problems inside a joint.

The word arthroscopy comes from two Greek words, “arthro” (joint) and “skopein” (to look). The term literally means “to look within the joint.” During shoulder arthroscopy, your surgeon inserts a small camera, called an arthroscope, into your shoulder joint. The camera displays pictures on a television screen, and your surgeon uses these images to guide miniature surgical instruments.

Because the arthroscope and surgical instruments are thin, your surgeon can use very small incisions (cuts), rather than the larger incision needed for standard, open surgery. This results in less pain for patients, and shortens the time it takes to recover and return to favorite activities.

Shoulder arthroscopy 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.

Shoulder problems are very common. Shoulder conditions occur more frequently in the muscles, ligaments, and tendons than in the bones. However, bone degeneration can occur from arthritis. Shoulder problems can occur from injury, “wear and tear,” disease, or aging. Arthroscopic surgery is used to treat shoulder instability, dislocation, impingement syndrome, rotator cuff tears, and some fractures.


Most shoulder conditions can be treated with non-surgical methods.

Treatments may include:

  • Physical or occupational therapy
  • Anti-inflammatory medication to reduce pain and swelling
  • Cortisone injections may sometimes be helpful.

Arthroscopy is recommended when such treatments have provided minimal or no improvement of your symptoms. Arthroscopic surgery is commonly used to reconstruct ligaments or remove damaged tissue and bone spurs. In some cases, both arthroscopic and open surgery techniques are used. Your doctor will discuss your examination results and help you decide on your course of treatment.

Overall, arthroscopic shoulder surgery requires a shorter length of time for recovery than open joint surgery. It also has a reduced risk of infection and causes less pain and stiffness because only small incisions are used and less surrounding tissue is affected or exposed. Most individuals achieve good results.