Surgical Information

Shoulder Arthroscopy for Dislocations

What is shoulder arthroscopy for dislocations?

Shoulder arthroscopy for dislocations is a minimally invasive procedure to repair torn or stretched ligaments so that they are better able to hold the shoulder joint in place.

The surgeon makes several small incisions around the shoulder joint and inserts a narrow fiber optic scope (called an arthroscope) to evaluate the condition of the joint and soft tissues. Tiny instruments are used to repair or remove any damaged tissues.

Arthroscopic treatment of shoulder dislocations allows surgeons a full view of the shoulder without having to cut through muscles. This minimally invasive approach is performed on an outpatient basis and offers numerous benefits including less muscle and tissue trauma, less bleeding, less pain and a much faster recovery. Patients usually go home the same day.

These photos taken through an arthroscope show a normal shoulder joint lining (left) and an inflamed joint lining damaged by frozen shoulder.-Sources:AAOS

Anatomy

The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint made up of three bones: the humerus (upper arm bone), scapula (shoulder blade) and clavicle (collarbone). The bones are covered with articular cartilage for smooth, pain-free motion of the joint. The muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder provide stability and support. All of these structures allow the shoulder to rotate through a greater range of motion than any other joint in the body.

Normal anatomy of the shoulder.-Sources:AAOS

When is surgery recommended?

Most shoulder dislocations do not require surgery. However, if the injury is severe and has damaged nerves and tissues around the shoulder joint, your doctor may recommend arthroscopic surgery. Likewise, if you have recurring dislocations (a condition known as shoulder instability), surgery may be necessary to tighten the tendons surrounding the joint.

(Left) During arthroscopy, your surgeon inserts the arthroscope and small instruments into your shoulder joint. (Right) An arthroscopic view of the inside of the shoulder joint.Sources:AAOS
(Left) An arthroscopic view of a healthy shoulder joint. (Center) In this image of a rotator cuff tear, a large gap can be seen between the edge of the rotator cuff tendon and the humeral head. (Right) The tendon has been re-attached to the humeral head with sutures.- Source:AAOS

What is the recovery time?

Shoulder arthroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure and patients usually go home the same day. Following surgery, patients wear a sling for several weeks to keep the shoulder immobilized. They then embark on an intensive physical therapy program to restore range of motion, strength and flexibility in the shoulder. Typically, full rehabilitation takes a few months. Most patients return to normal activities within six weeks of surgery and limited athletics between 10 and 14 weeks. Return to contact sports is possible after three to six months, depending on the sport. As with all surgical procedures, specific recovery time varies by patient and demand.