All shoulder Topics

What is Shoulder Arthroscopy?

Diagnostic shoulder arthroscopy is a minimally-invasive surgical procedure performed to identify and treat disease or damage inside the shoulder joint. A camera attached to an instrument called an arthroscope is utilized during the procedure.

Key statistics about Diagnostic Shoulder Arthroscopy

  • Approximately 530,000 shoulder arthroscopy procedures are performed each year in the United States1
  • Shoulder arthroscopy is the second most commonly performed orthopedic procedure2
  • Approximately 98% of patients undergoing arthroscopic shoulder surgery do not experience complications following their procedures3

Expert Insight

Diagnostic Shoulder Arthroscopy Explained - J. Field Scovell, III, MD

Why is Diagnostic Shoulder Arthroscopy performed?

Shoulder arthroscopy is performed primarily to identify and relieve shoulder pain associated with damage to cartilage, bone or soft tissue of the shoulder. Problems may include:

  • Arthritis
  • Bone spurs
  • Torn rotator cuff
3D renderings of the shoulder showing the three major reasons why shoulder arthroscopy is performed: arthritis, bone spurs, torn rotator cuff

Shoulder Anatomy

The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint formed by three bones: the humerus, the scapula, and the clavicle.

3D rendering of the shoulder with colorized regions highlighting its anatomy

Who needs Diagnostic Shoulder Arthroscopy?

Individuals who have sustained an injury or degenerative condition of the shoulder that has not responded to nonsurgical treatment may undergo diagnostic shoulder arthroscopy.

How is Diagnostic Shoulder Arthroscopy performed?

  • The surgeon will make small incisions around the shoulder joint and the arthroscope will be inserted into one of the incisions.
  • Saline solution is pumped into the joint to expand it and improve visualization.
  • Images from the arthroscope are sent to a video monitor where the surgeon can see inside the joint.
  • Using the video monitor as a guide, the surgeon will locate the problem area and make a diagnosis.
  • Finally, the saline solution is drained, instruments are removed, and the incisions are closed using sutures.

What are the risks of Diagnostic Shoulder Arthroscopy?

It is uncommon to experience complications from diagnostic shoulder arthroscopy but potential risks may include:

  • Infection
  • Blood clots
  • Tissue damage

How long does it take to recover from Diagnostic Shoulder Arthroscopy?

  • 24 hours after surgery: Most patients are able to return home the same day as their procedure. A physical therapy routine will be established by the surgeon and physical therapist, and pain medication may be prescribed. A sling may be provided, but it is important that prescribed exercises are followed in order to prevent the development of any weakness or stiffness.
  • 2 weeks after surgery: Any non-dissolvable sutures are removed and bruising and swelling begin to subside.

What are the results of Diagnostic Shoulder Arthroscopy?

Diagnostic shoulder arthroscopy is a minimally-invasive procedure that typically has a faster recovery time and fewer complications than open shoulder surgery. Ultimately, the results of diagnostic shoulder arthroscopy depend upon the specific diagnosis and treatment.

Jain, N.B., Peterson, E., Ayers, G.D., Song, A., & Kuhn, J.E. (2019). US Geographical Variation in Rates of Shoulder and Knee Arthroscopy and Association With Orthopedist Density. JAMA Network Open. 2 (12), e1917315.
Crimmins, I.M., Mulcahey, M.K., & O’Brien, M.J. (2019). Diagnostic Shoulder Arthroscopy: Surgical Technique. Arthroscopy Techniques. 8(5), 443-449.
Rees, J.L., Craig, R., Nagra, N., Baldwin, M., Lane, J.C.E., Price, A., Beard, D.J., Abram, S., Judge, A., Prieto-Alhambra, D. Furniss, D., 7 Carr, A.J. (2022). Serious adverse event rates and reoperation after arthroscopic shoulder surgery: population based cohort study. BMJ. 378, e069901.
Last edited on February 7th, 2024 5:58 pm