Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgical technique that involves several small incisions into which a fiber-optic device (arthroscope) and tiny surgical instruments are inserted. Orthopedic surgeons can diagnose and treat many different shoulder conditions with arthroscopy, while patients can benefit from less tissue damage, shorter recovery times, less scarring and less post-operative pain. This technique also avoids cutting any muscles or tendons in order to gain access to the affected area.
Shoulder arthroscopy is often performed to confirm a diagnosis after a physical examination and other imaging procedures have been performed. Some conditions can also be treated during the same procedure by inserting a few additional instruments into the joint area.
Arthroscopy can be used to treat many conditions that affect the shoulder joint. Shoulder arthroscopy, also known as shoulder scope, can be used to treat:
- Rotator cuff tears
- Labral tears
- Impingement syndrome
- Biceps tendonitis
- AC joint arthritis
While arthroscopy offers many benefits over a traditional open procedure, it is not for everybody. Some conditions, especially those that are not easily visible with the arthroscopic camera, may be better suited for traditional surgery. Your doctor will decide which type of procedure is right for you.
The socket of the shoulder, or glenoid, is covered with a layer of cartilage called the labrum that cushions and deepens the socket to help stabilize the joint. Traumatic injuries and repetitive overhead shoulder movements can tear the labrum, leading to pain, limited motion, instability and weakness in the joint.
Symptoms of a labral injury can include shoulder pain and a popping or clicking sensation when the shoulder is moved, as well as rotator cuff weakness. One of the most common labral injuries is called a SLAP lesion, a tear where the biceps tendon meets the glenoid. Another kind of labral injury is a Bankart lesion, where the labrum pulls off the front of the socket. This happens most often when the shoulder dislocates. If a Bankart tear doesn’t heal properly, it can facilitate future dislocations, instability, weakness and pain.
Labral repair surgery aims to repair unstable shoulders with staples, anchors or sutures. The procedure is usually performed through arthroscopy, which allows the doctor to view the tear through a small camera and perform the procedure through tiny incisions. Larger tears may require an open procedure.
The rotator cuff is a group of tendons and muscles that support the shoulder joint and allow for complete movement while keeping the ball of the arm bone in the shoulder socket. These tendons and muscles may become torn or otherwise damaged from injury or overuse and can lead to pain, weakness and inflammation. Surgery may be used to treat this often serious condition.
Rotator cuff surgery may be performed laparoscopically or through an open procedure, depending on the type and severity of the condition. Both procedures are performed under general anesthesia and aim to reattach the tendon back to the arm, along with removing any loose fragments from the shoulder area.
Rotator cuff repair surgery is usually successful in relieving shoulder pain, although full strength cannot always be restored. Recovery time depends on the type of surgery, but can take several months. As with any surgery, there are certain risks involved with rotator cuff repair such as infection, pain or stiffness, nerve damage or the need for repeated surgery. These complications are rare and most people receive successful outcomes from this procedure.
A separated shoulder is a common injury that most often affects athletes in contact sports. This injury to the acromioclavicular (AC) joint is usually the result of a fall on an outstretched hand, severe lateral sheering-force, or a fall on the tip of the shoulder. It is important to note that this is not the same as a shoulder dislocation: a dislocation (subluxation) of the shoulder occurs exclusively in the glenohumeral joint.
Shoulder separation injuries are classified according to their severity, with type I being the most benign and type VI being the most severe. Typically, types IV through VI all require surgery but there is controversy as to whether a type III injury would benefit significantly from surgery.
Treatment and recovery varies greatly between the classes of shoulder separation, from a few weeks of bed rest with anti-inflammatory drugs to arthroscopic surgery requiring months of physical rehabilitation.
The Weaver-Dunn Procedure is the most frequently used surgical technique for the repair of shoulder separation. This procedure allows stability in the joint to be maintained effectively by attaching the acromial end of the coracoclavicular ligament to the displaced clavicle bone, while replacing the aforementioned ligament with alternative connective apparatus or tissue.