Arthroscopic Shoulder Surgery

Arthroscopic Shoulder Surgery at a Glance

Our shoulder joint is a vulnerable joint due to its wide range of motion. In some people, frequent overhead movements or trauma damage the tissues inside the shoulder resulting in pain, discomfort, immobility and weakness of the shoulder joint. These shoulder problems often require surgery if other treatment methods are not successful.

While the conventional shoulder surgery needed large incisions, arthroscopic technique has enabled performing shoulder surgery through small incisions. An arthroscope is a small, flexible, tube like instrument with a light source and a tiny video camera attached to it.

Arthroscopic surgery is recommended in these problems:

  • Rotator cuff tear
  • Shoulder impingement
  • Frozen shoulder
  • Shoulder instability

Arthroscopic surgery is usually an outpatient procedure. You need not stay overnight in the hospital. The surgery is performed under local or general anesthesia through small incisions. These incisions or portals are about 5 mm long, made over specific areas of the shoulder joint. The arthroscope and other cannulas are introduced through these portals.

The arthroscope transmits pictures of inside of the joint which are seen live on a TV monitor. These pictures guide the surgeon to perform the surgery. After finishing the procedure, arthroscope and other instruments are removed and the incisions are stitched.


Arthroscopic surgery has many advantages over the traditional open surgery. Some of these are:

  • Less tissue damage due to smaller incisions
  • Quicker recovery as compared to open surgery
  • Less post-operative pain
  • Generally does not require overnight stay in the hospital
  • Fewer complications of surgery



The recovery period depends on the type and severity of the problem for which surgery was done. Initially, for a short period, you may have to wear a sling to ensure early healing. During this period, your physical therapist starts passive range of motion exercises like moving your fingers, hands and elbow. After sometime, when the sling is removed, he or she may gradually include other exercises also to regain range of motion of the shoulder and strength of the arm. Complete recovery may take from a few months to a year.


Cleveland Clinic
National Institutes of Health