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Benefits of Shoulder Arthroscopy for Rotator Cuff Repair

One of the most common injuries to the shoulder joint is a rotator cuff tear. Every year, more than two million people in the U.S. see their healthcare professionals due to rotator cuff injuries.

Surgical procedures to fix shoulder injuries have advanced significantly and now include minimally-invasive arthroscopic rotator cuff surgery. Your surgeon will discuss options with you, but for many patients, arthroscopy is the best choice.

What Is Arthroscopic Rotator Cuff Repair?

A young man stands in a gym and holds his shoulder in painArthroscopy allows orthopedic surgeons to look inside the joint without cutting through muscles, tendons, and other types of tissue (in fact the word arthroscopic is a combination of ancient Greek words which mean to look within the joint). Requiring only a small incision, a tiny fiber-optic camera is inserted into the joint and sends images to a video monitor.

The surgeon then uses these images to make a diagnosis or to guide actual repairs. This is done by making one or more additional small incisions through which extremely thin instruments are inserted. Rotator cuff shoulder surgery is just one application of arthroscopy. Surgeons use it on other joints as well.  

The Benefits of Arthroscopic Rotator Cuff Shoulder Surgery

A rotator cuff tear is a fairly common shoulder injury. The muscles and tendons that join together to stabilize and support the shoulder joint are referred to as the rotator cuff. They are structured in a way to not only hold the joint firmly in the shoulder socket but also to facilitate the types of movements that we call upon the shoulder to make.

The shoulder joint is one of the body’s most complex joints, allowing more flexibility and range of motion than any of the other joints. As with most things in life, however, there is a cost versus benefit feature to this arrangement. While a very strong joint, all of that additional movement potential is possible because the shoulder socket is more shallow than the other major joints, like the hip and the knee. This allows for more range of motion but also makes the shoulder joint less stable and more susceptible to injury.

A young woman in an exam room explains her shoulder pain to a doctor. A torn rotator cuff may be the result of some sort of trauma or sports injury or it may be due to repetitive motion and overuse. Athletes are very prone to rotator cuff injuries. A rotator cuff tear may involve one of the muscles being damaged or frayed, or there may be a partial or complete tear of one of the tendons. Both can cause pain, swelling, and marked loss of range of motion in the joint.

Advantages of Arthroscopic Rotator Cuff Surgery

Treatment for rotator cuff tears will vary with each individual and be based on the extent of the damage. Initially, your doctor will likely suggest medications for pain and inflammation and possibly physical therapy. If this does not prove adequate, surgery may be recommended. For rotator cuff surgery, arthroscopic procedures have several advantages:

  • Arthroscopy is much less invasive than open shoulder surgery, which often requires splitting or detaching muscles. With arthroscopy, the surgeon can repair the damage with much less harm to other tissue.
  • Because it is less invasive, there is a lower risk of infection with arthroscopy and a quicker recovery time.
  • Surgeons almost always perform arthroscopic procedures on an outpatient basis, so you get home sooner and don’t have to spend the night in the hospital.
  • The rotator cuff surgery scar is much smaller and less noticeable from an arthroscopic procedure as compared to open surgery.

An older woman sits on a couch and holds her shoulder in pain while a man leans over her and touches her shoulder. If you have questions about shoulder arthroscopy, rotator cuff repair, or any other orthopedic concerns, the physicians and staff of South Island Orthopedics are very experienced in a wide range of orthopedic conditions and are committed to providing personalized care in a state-of-the-art facility. To schedule an appointment, or if you just have questions, please use our convenient online contact form.

Posted in: Neck/Back & Shoulder