Shoulder surgery is sometimes necessary to repair the shoulder joint. Arthroscopy is a less invasive approach used to diagnose and treat a wide range of shoulder problems. It’s performed as an outpatient procedure and patients return home the same day.
Board-certified orthopedic surgeon Dr. Matthew Pifer specializes in shoulder and sports medicine and has extensive experience diagnosing and treating a full range of shoulder issues. If you’re scheduled for arthroscopic shoulder surgery, it’s wise to learn what to expect from surgery.
Arthroscopic shoulder surgery overview
Shoulder arthroscopy differs from traditional open shoulder surgery approaches. It involves making several small incisions instead of one large incision. The surgeon inserts a slim camera called an arthroscope to get a good visual of the injury. Specialized tools allow the surgeon to repair the damaged tissue. A torn rotator cuff is just one condition treated with arthroscopic shoulder surgery. Other conditions treated with this approach include:
Benefits of shoulder arthroscopy
The arthroscopic approach to shoulder surgery offers numerous benefits including:
- Minimal surgical scars
- Outpatient (no overnight hospital stay)
- Faster recovery
- Lower risks
- Lower complications
What to expect following arthroscopic shoulder surgery
Your arm will be in a sling after surgery to immobilize it. It’s normal to feel tired for several days and it’s best to take it easy. You may notice that your shoulder is swollen and may feel numb. This is perfectly normal and will resolve over the course of a few days.
The time it takes to recover depends on your specific shoulder problem, but most people need at least six weeks to recover. Generally, you will need to limit your activity until you restore the strength and mobility of your shoulder. Your surgeon will provide specific instructions on what activities to avoid during your recovery.
At home, it’s important to rest and get adequate sleep to aid recovery. Rehabilitation starts once your shoulder has healed enough to endure strengthening exercises. In most cases, this phase begins eight to 12 weeks after your surgery.
You can expect these common stages of recovery:
- Immobilization: During the first several weeks a sling will help immobilize your shoulder so that it can heal.
- Passive exercise: A physical therapist or machine assists you with passive exercise. This involves gentle going through gentle movements without effort.
- Active exercise: Once ready, you can expect to engage in active exercise to begin strengthening your shoulder. As you go through the rehabilitation process you will increase your range of motion, strength, and endurance.
Who should consider arthroscopic shoulder surgery?
If you’re struggling with shoulder problems that have failed to respond adequately to non-surgical treatment, discuss it with Dr. Pifer. A comprehensive evaluation is necessary to recommend the most appropriate treatment approach.
Arthroscopic is often recommended for shoulder problems that cause significant pain, or weakness, and interferes with your ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities, such as reaching overhead or engaging in sports activities.
To learn more about what to expect from arthroscopic shoulder surgery contact our Santa Barbara office to schedule a consultation with Dr. Pifer. We offer in-person and telemedicine appointments, so you can receive guidance from the comfort of your home. Our team is here to meet your orthopedic needs.