Patient Education: Arthroscopic Shoulder Surgery

Arthroscopic Surgery for the Shoulder

If the ligament has been completely torn or if the patient is not healing from physical therapy, then the doctor may suggest a complete reconstruction of the ligament in order to prevent further damage and stabilize the shoulder.

Arthroscopic surgery may be performed. Surgery involves the repair, reconstruction and removal of the damaged tissue. A physical therapy program will usually follow the surgery in order to strengthen the muscles and restore full joint mobility.

Arthroscopy is a technique that allows surgeons to visualize, diagnose and treat a variety of joint problems. Rotator cuff tears, ligament tears, tendon tears, damaged and loose cartilage, and many other conditions can all be treated arthroscopically. Arthroscopy is performed using an arthroscope, a small optic instrument that enables a close look at the inside of a joint through a small skin incision.

Arthroscopic surgery was developed as a way to avoid making long skin incisions. While the long incisions allowed surgeons to fully visualize the joint, the subsequent disruption of tissue created long healing times, increased risk of infection and resulted in long scars.


Arthroscopic surgery avoids long, invasive incisions by using an arthroscope, a small tube-like instrument that allows the surgeon to see inside the joint. The arthroscope is inserted into the joint through a short incision generally less than 1/4″ – 1/2″. Several small incisions may be made to see other parts of the joint or to insert instruments. The arthroscope uses a camera that projects the image of the joint onto a monitor. The surgeon is able to view the joint, and its structures, including cartilage, ligaments and surrounding tissue. Once the problem is identified, the surgeon may be able to use specially designed instruments and/or implantable fixation devices to repair conditions or remove any damaged bone or tissue.


All patient education materials are provided by and have been reviewed by our Advisory Board of leading Orthopedic Surgeons to ensure accuracy. All materials are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to be a substitute for medical advice from your orthopedic surgeon. Any medical decisions should be made after consulting a qualified physician.
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