Arthroscopic shoulder surgery

Arthroscopic shoulder surgery is used to diagnose and treat injuries to or diseases of the shoulder joint. The minimally invasive procedure enables gentle surgical treatment of injuries to the bicep tendon or the rotator cuff. Calcifications or constrictions in the shoulder joint can also be treated with arthroscopic surgery.

An arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure which is used to diagnose and treat injuries to and diseases of the joints.

An arthroscopy is used as a diagnostic tool in the shoulder joint to detect pathological changes in this area, as these are often very difficult to identify with conventional radiological examinations. For example, injuries to the biceps tendon within the shoulder joint, injuries to the rotator cuff, constrictions (impingement syndrome), shoulder dislocations (shoulder luxation) as well as calcifications in the shoulder joint.

The injuries and diseases brought to light with an arthroscopy can often be treated immediately using arthroscopic surgery.

What preparations are carried out before the procedure?

An MRI examination is sometimes carried out before arthroscopic surgery. The patient must have an empty stomach when they undergo this procured and Blood-thinning medication must be stopped a few days beforehand as well. As is customary before operations, blood tests, an ECG and blood pressure measurements are also undertaken.

How is the operation performed?

Arthroscopic shoulder surgery is usually carried out in an outpatient clinic. under regional spinal cord anaesthesia, rarely under general anaesthesia. During the operation, the patient sits in a beach chair position. Then an arthroscope with the thickness of a pencil is inserted into the shoulder joint via an incision in the skin. While this is being done, a built-in mini-camera transmits enlarged images from the interior of the joint to a screen. The joint is filled with special fluid or with air to enlarge the operating space inside the joint.

Small surgical instruments are inserted into the shoulder joint through further incisions in the skin, which allows surgical procedures to be undertaken using the camera view as a guide. For example, damage to tendons, ligaments and joint capsules can be sutured, joint deposits can be removed and constrictions can be remedied.

Finally, the fluid or the air is suctioned from the joint space and the incisions in the skin are closed.

What is the success rate of this procedure?

Arthroscopic shoulder surgery is a gentle procedure and far less physically demanding on the shoulder joint than an open operation. Nowadays, it is considered to be a standard procedure which produces good results in patients with torn tendons, ruptures of the rotator cuff, calcifications and impingement syndrome in particular.

What are the possible complications and risks of this procedure?

Arthroscopic shoulder surgery is a low-risk, routine procedure. As with all surgery, the operation may sometimes lead to infections, nerve damage, post-operative haemorrhaging or blood clots, and in rare cases, stiffness of the joint. In comparison to an open shoulder procedure, arthroscopic surgery is far less risky.

What happens after the operation?

Depending on the type of procedure, you can expect to remain in hospital for 1 to 3 days. The physiotherapist will teach you a series of targeted exercises. These are crucial for the success of the treatment and to regain full movement in your shoulder. The healing process takes between 6 and 12 weeks and is monitored with regular check-ups. Depending on the type of injury, the patient can be off work for between 2 weeks and 6 months.


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