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Shoulder Arthroscopy

 
 

What is it?

The surgeon needs to look inside your shoulder to find out exactly what is causing your symptoms. In some people, he is looking for signs that the shoulder has been coming out of joint. In others, he is trying to see the condition of the tendons (strong bands of tissue that attach the muscles to the bones) that are above the shoulder joint. He will be using an arthroscope.

 
Shoulder Surgery Video

The Operation

You will have a general anaesthetic, and will be asleep for the whole operation. The arthroscope is a telescope about as wide as a pen, connected to a television. The operation is called an arthroscopy.

The surgeon will insert the arthroscope through one or two tiny half inch (about 1 cm) cuts around your shoulder. He will use it to look at the inside of your shoulder and the tendons over the shoulder.

The cuts will be closed with stitches, clips, or paper tapes. You will be in hospital one night or so after the operation.

Any Alternatives

If you leave things as they are, the cause of the shoulder problem will remain unclear. More X-rays and scans will not help at the moment. Arthroscopy is the only way to get a direct view of the inside of the joint and the tendons above the joint.

Before the operation

Stop smoking and get your weight down if you are overweight. (See Healthy Living). If you know that you have problems with your blood pressure, your heart, or your lungs, ask your family doctor to check that these are under control. Check the hospital's advice about taking the Pill or hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Check you have a relative or friend who can come with you to the hospital, take you home, and look after you for the first week after the operation. Bring all your tablets and medicines with you to the hospital. On the ward, you may be checked for past illnesses and may have special tests, to make sure that you are well prepared and that you can have the operation as safely as possible.. Many hospitals now run special preadmission clinics, where you visit for an hour or two, a few weeks or so before the operation for these checks.

After - In Hospital

Your arm will be in a sling. The shoulder may be a little sore. If it is, you will be given injections or tablets to control this. Ask for more if the pain is getting worse. Your shoulder might also be a bit stiff. This will get better quickly. A general anaesthetic will make you slow, clumsy and forgetful for about 24 hours. The nurses will help you with everything you need until you are able to do things for yourself. Do not make important decisions, drive a car, use machinery, or even boil a kettle during this time. The cuts may be held closed with paper tapes, stitches or clips. There will be simple adhesive dressings over the tapes. You may take the dressings and the tapes off 10 days after the operation. Arrangements will be made for your to have your stitches or clips taken out after 10 days or so. Wash around the dressings for the first 10 days. You can wash the wound area as soon as the dressing has been removed. Soap and warm tap water are entirely adequate. Salted water is not necessary. You can shower or take a bath as often as you like. You will be given an appointment to visit the orthopaedic outpatient department about one week after you leave hospital. Some hospitals arrange a check-up about one month after you leave hospital. Others leave check-ups to the General Practitioner. The nurses will advise about sick notes, certificates etc.

After - At Home

You cannot drive whilst your arm is in a sling. If you were driving before the arthroscopy you will be able to drive within a few days of leaving hospital. How soon you can return to work depends on your job. If you are working now, you should be able to return to work 7 to 10 days after your operation.

Possible Complications

As with any operation under general anaesthetic there is a very small risk of complications related to your heart or your lungs. The tests that you will have before the operation will make sure that you can have the operation in the safest possible way and will bring the risk for such complications very close to zero.

Complications following arthroscopy are very rare. Occasionally the surgeon is unable to see all that he would wish. Sometimes arthroscopy does not come up with any answers. Very rarely there is bleeding inside the joint, or some infection that can be settled by taking antibiotics for a few days. Very rarely more serious complications can happen like further damage to the joint or damage to the nerves or blood vessels in or around the area of the operation and you might need another operation to deal with the problem.

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