Shoulder arthroscopy is surgery that uses a tiny camera
called an arthroscope to examine or repair the tissues
inside or around your shoulder joint. The arthroscope is
inserted through a small incision (cut) in your skin.
The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that
cover your shoulder joint. These muscles and tendons hold
your arm in your ball and socket shoulder joint, and they
help you move your shoulder in different directions. The
tendons in the rotator cuff can tear when they are overused
Most people receive general anesthesia before this
surgery. This means you will be unconscious and unable to
feel pain. Or, you may have regional anesthesia. Your arm
and shoulder area will be numbed so that you do not feel any
pain in this area. If you receive regional anesthesia, you
will also be given medicine to make you very sleepy during
First, your surgeon will examine your shoulder with the
arthroscope. Your surgeon will:
- Insert the arthroscope into your shoulder through a
small incision. The arthroscope is connected to a video
monitor in the operating room.
- Inspect all the tissues of your shoulder joint and
the area above the joint -- the cartilage, bones,
tendons, and ligaments.
- Repair any damaged tissues. To do this, your surgeon
will make 1 to 3 more small incisions and insert other
instruments through them. A tear in a muscle, tendon, or
cartilage will be fixed. Damaged tissue may need to be
Who Needs Shoulder Arthroscopy
There are two primary groups of people who undergo
shoulder arthroscopy – young overhead athletes with labral
tears from dislocations, SLAP tears, loose bodies; older
people with rotator cuff tears.
The young athletes often develop SLAP lesions from
repetitive overhead activities and labral tears / loose
bodies from dislocations. These lesions can be treated
through the arthroscope with loose body removal and labral
repair. Sometimes, a capsular placation is performed to
“tighten up” the capsule and ligaments of the shoulder.
These injuries are most commonly seen in overhead athletes –
swimmers, throwers, volleyball players, and water polo
players, as well as young athletes who compete in contact
sports that can often lead to dislocations – football,
hockey, gymnastics, wrestling, and lacrosse.
The older person who tears his/her rotator cuff can be
treated through the arthroscope as well. The rotator cuff
tendon can be repaired back to its anatomic location with
the use of anchors (dry wall screws) and high strength