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Shoulder Arthroscopy


Shoulder arthroscopy is a surgery to examine or repair your damaged or diseased shoulder joint.


Before your surgery:

  • Informed consent is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.
  • An IV is a small tube placed in your vein that is used to give you medicine or liquids.
  • Pre-op care: You may be given medicine right before your procedure or surgery. This medicine may make you feel relaxed and sleepy. You are taken on a stretcher to the room where your procedure or surgery will be done, and then you are moved to a table or bed.
  • Monitoring:
    • Heart monitor: This is also called an ECG or EKG. Sticky pads placed on your skin record your heart's electrical activity.
    • A pulse oximeter is a device that measures the amount of oxygen in your blood. A cord with a clip or sticky strip is placed on your finger, ear, or toe. The other end of the cord is hooked to a machine.
  • Anesthesia:
    • Interscalene block: An interscalene block uses medicine to numb your shoulder and arm. The medicine is given as a shot in your neck. You are awake during surgery. You may also be given other medicine to make you sleepy. You may still feel pressure or pushing during surgery, but you should not feel pain. This block may also be given with general anesthesia. If so, you will be completely asleep during surgery. The block will help decrease the pain when you wake up after surgery.
    • IV regional anesthesia: This is medicine put into an IV in the injured arm. A pressure cuff is first put on your arm or leg. After the cuff is tightened, the medicine is put into the IV. The cuff keeps the medicine in the arm so you will not have pain.
    • General anesthesia will keep you asleep and free from pain during surgery. Anesthesia may be given through your IV. You may instead breathe it in through a mask or a tube placed down your throat. The tube may cause you to have a sore throat when you wake up.

During your surgery:

  • Caregivers will check your shoulder by moving your arms in different directions and comparing both shoulders. You will then be placed on your side with the affected shoulder up. Your arm will be held in traction (device with weight) if you are lying on your side.
  • A small incision will be made in your shoulder. Liquid will be put into the shoulder joint. This decreases blood flow to the shoulder and makes it easier to see inside the joint. Caregivers will use an arthroscope to look inside your shoulder joint by inserting it through the incision. Additional small incisions will be made in different places around your shoulder. Tools will be put into these incisions to fix or remove tissue in your shoulder. The incisions will be closed with stitches, and a bandage will be placed around your shoulder. Your arm will then be put in a sling to keep your shoulder joint from moving while it heals.

After your surgery:

You will be taken to a room where your heart and breathing will be monitored. Do not get out of bed until your caregiver says it is okay. A bandage may cover the incisions to help prevent infection. If you had general anesthesia, an adult will need to drive you home. An adult should stay with you for 24 hours. If you cannot go home, you will be taken to a hospital room.

  • Activity: You may need to walk around the same day of surgery, or the day after. Movement will help prevent blood clots. You may also be given exercises to do in bed. Do not get out of bed on your own until your caregiver says you can. Talk to caregivers before you get up the first time. They may need to help you stand up safely. When you are able to get up on your own, sit or lie down right away if you feel weak or dizzy. Then press the call light button to let caregivers know you need help.
  • Take deep breaths and cough 10 times each hour. This will decrease your risk for a lung infection. Take a deep breath and hold it for as long as you can. Let the air out and then cough strongly. Deep breaths help open your airway. You may be given an incentive spirometer to help you take deep breaths. Put the plastic piece in your mouth and take a slow, deep breath, then let the air out and cough. Repeat these steps 10 times every hour.
  • Ice: Your caregiver may put ice on your shoulder. Ice helps decrease swelling and pain. Ice may also help prevent tissue damage.
  • Medicines:
    • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to help treat or prevent an infection caused by bacteria.
    • Antinausea medicine: This medicine may be given to calm your stomach and to help prevent vomiting.
    • Pain medicine: You may be given a prescription medicine to decrease pain. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you ask for more medicine.
  • Physical therapy: A physical therapist will teach you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain.


Shoulder arthroscopy may increase your risk of infection or bleeding. Other parts of the shoulder, such as nerves, blood vessels, or ligaments may be damaged. Your shoulder may become stiff, numb, or more painful. Medicines and devices used during surgery may cause an allergic reaction. Your shoulder problem may come back after treatment. Without treatment, the pain and problems you have with your shoulder may get worse.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Shoulder Arthroscopy (Inpatient Care)

Micromedex® Care Notes