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The shoulder is a complex ball-and-socket joint that allows you to move your arm in nearly every direction. It is made up of three bones, including the upper arm bone (humerus), the shoulder blade (scapula), and the collarbone (clavicle). The shoulder joint is where the ball of the humerus joins the socket of the scapula (glenoid cavity). The joint is secured and attached through soft tissues such as muscle and cartilage, ligaments, and tendons, including the rotator cuff.

Pain in and around the shoulder joint caused by wear and tear or acute damage can keep you from doing even simple, daily tasks. This pain can be the result of damage to the soft tissues, such as rotator cuff tears and other rotator cuff conditions, and other shoulder issues involving the tendons, like tendonitis, or muscular and cartilage problems, like frozen shoulder or a labral tear. For serious damage, arthroscopic shoulder surgery is often used for reparation, such as arthroscopic rotator cuff repair for rotator cuff tears.

Arthroscopy is a type of surgery that allows a surgeon to see inside a joint, make a diagnosis, and repair damage as needed through small incisions. To do this, the surgeon uses a tiny instrument with a camera called an arthroscope and small surgical tools to examine or repair the tissues inside or around the shoulder joint and cavity. 

Before Undergoing Shoulder Arthroscopy

History of Injury: Some people may need shoulder arthroscopy after an injury. Other times, an arthroscopic procedure is performed to help patients who are dealing with the shoulder pain resulting from a chronic condition.

Diagnosis: Your doctor will ask questions about your general health as well as your pain and how it is impacting your ability to function. He or she will also perform a physical exam to assess the strength, range of motion, and stability of your shoulder. To better understand the location and the extent of the damage, you will have X-rays taken of your shoulder. Depending on your situation, your doctor may also order blood tests or an MRI.

Treatment: One of several arthroscopic procedures may be used to treat or diagnose the injury or condition.

Initial: Before recommending arthroscopy, your orthopedic surgeon may suggest taking anti-inflammatory medications or over-the-counter pain relievers. You may also be advised to avoid activities that could make your pain worse.

Long-Term: If nonsurgical treatments are not helpful or no longer relieve pain, arthroscopy could be a good option for you. 

Indications for Surgery: Arthroscopic surgery can be especially helpful if you have torn ligaments or tendons, shoulder instability, arthritis, loose tissue, or a dislocation or bone spur.

A number of shoulder injuries and conditions are treated arthroscopically, including:

  • Adhesive capsulitis (frozen shoulder)
  • Bursitis
  • Rotator cuff tears
  • Rotator cuff tendonitis
  • Shoulder impingement

Your Surgery, Recovery, and Rehabilitation

Surgery: The type of arthroscopic surgery you have will depend on your unique situation, needs, and specific injury or condition. 

Regardless of the type of surgery you need, during the procedure, your surgeon will insert the arthroscope into the affected area. An image of your shoulder joint is then projected in real time for your surgeon to view. Several other small incisions may also be made that allow your surgeon to move the camera to other positions to see the cartilage of each bone, the ligaments, and the shoulder joint lining. He or she will also insert various surgical tools through these openings throughout the procedure.

Post-Surgery: Arthroscopy generally involves regional anesthesia instead of general anesthesia. Arthroscopic procedures are often performed on an outpatient basis, in which case, you will likely be able to go home the day of your procedure with your arm in a sling. If you are experiencing swelling, icing your shoulder can help reduce the inflammation. You can also use over-the-counter pain medications while you recover. Although you should be able to go home a few hours after your surgical procedure, you will need to have a friend or family member drive you.

Rehabilitation: Recovery time may last several weeks or months, and you will likely need to wear a sling during part of this time. If your surgical procedure included a repair, your orthopedic surgeon may recommend physical therapy to help you regain strength and motion in your shoulder. Both the type and length of this therapy depend on the type of procedure you had.  

Risks and Complications: As with any surgery, there is a risk of infection or blood clots. You should also avoid heavy lifting or hard manual labor.

You should seek out an experienced orthopedic surgeon to perform your arthroscopic surgery. This clinician should not only be skilled at performing the surgery but also have the ability to accurately assess the extent of the damage prior to surgery. 

The Shoulder Expert at Litchfield Hills Orthopedic Associates

Our fellowship-trained shoulder surgeon, Dr. Leigh Brezenoff, is experienced and skilled in providing expert care. Though many shoulder conditions can be treated conservatively, there are injuries or conditions that may require shoulder surgery. Dr. Brezenoff offers a number of specialized nonsurgical joint treatments, including platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections, cortisone joint injections, and viscosupplementation. Before recommending surgery, he also ensures that other measures have been taken to relieve your pain, including anti-inflammatory medications, injections, or physical therapy with a certified physical therapist.

If surgical intervention is necessary for you, Dr. Brezenoff has the advanced training and expertise to perform your shoulder arthroscopy. He also offers several other advanced procedures, including:

  • Arthroscopic shoulder stabilization
  • Cartilage preservation of the shoulder
  • Reverse total shoulder replacement
  • Rotator cuff repair
  • Total shoulder replacement

At Litchfield Hills Orthopedic Associates, our shoulder surgeon understands the first step towards reducing your shoulder pain and restoring your health is a proper diagnosis to determine the specific cause of your pain. Schedule a consultation with our specialty-trained shoulder surgeon today, and discuss your condition and treatment options. You can request an appointment online or call (860) 482-8539 and be seen in Torrington or Bristol.