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Shoulder Arthroscopy

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Oct 3, 2022.

What do I need to know about a shoulder arthroscopy?

A shoulder arthroscopy is a procedure to look inside your shoulder with an arthroscope. An arthroscope is a thin tube with a light and camera on the end. During a shoulder arthroscopy, your healthcare provider may fix problems in your joint. Problems may include a torn rotator cuff, swollen tissue, or bone spurs.

How do I prepare for a shoulder arthroscopy?

  • Your healthcare provider will talk to you about how to prepare for your procedure. You may need an x-ray, ultrasound, or MRI before your procedure. These tests will take pictures of your joint and help your healthcare provider plan for your surgery. Arrange for someone to drive you home. Ask the person to stay with you for at least 24 hours after the procedure.
  • Your healthcare provider may tell you not to eat or drink anything after midnight on the day of your procedure. He or she will tell you what medicines to take or not take on the day of your procedure. You may be given an antibiotic through your IV to help prevent a bacterial infection.

What will happen during a shoulder arthroscopy?

  • You will get general anesthesia to keep you asleep and pain-free during your procedure. You may also get a regional block that numbs your shoulder. The regional block will help decrease pain after your procedure.
  • Your healthcare provider will make small incisions in your shoulder. He or she will rinse out the fluid that is in your shoulder. This will help him or her see your joint better. The arthroscope will be inserted into one of the incisions. The picture from the scope will be seen on a monitor. Your healthcare provider will examine your shoulder joint. He or she may insert tools into incisions in different places on your shoulder. The tools may be used to repair a torn rotator cuff, ligament, or dislocation. Tools may also be used to remove swollen tissue, cartilage, or a bone spur. Your healthcare provider may close your incisions with stitches or medical tape and cover them with a small bandage.

What will happen after a shoulder arthroscopy?

Healthcare providers will monitor you until you are awake. You may need an x-ray to look at your shoulder joint and monitor for complications. Do not move your shoulder until your healthcare provider says it is okay. You may be given instructions on what movements to avoid. You may able to go home when your pain is controlled or you may need to spend a night in the hospital.

What are the risks of a shoulder arthroscopy?

You may get an infection. Nerves, ligaments, tendons, or blood vessels may be damaged during your procedure. You may get a blood clot in your arm or have trouble moving your shoulder.

Care Agreement

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 healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

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