Shoulder arthroscopy

This page provides information regarding an arthroscopy of the shoulder. Contact your GP or relevant health professional if you have any questions.

What is an arthroscopy of the shoulder?

An arthroscopy is a form of keyhole surgery. The surgeon is able to look inside your shoulder using a camera inserted via small incisions to the shoulder area. Some problems can be treated using surgical instruments.

What are the benefits of surgery?

Surgery confirms what the problem is and in many cases the problem can be treated at the same time.

Are there any alternatives to surgery?

CT and MRI scans can be used to diagnose problems within the shoulder joint. Often an arthroscopy would still be needed to treat the problem.

What does the operation involve?

The procedure is usually undertaken with a general anaesthetic and is often completed within three quarters of an hour. Between two and four small cuts will be made by the surgeon around the joint. A small telescope is then inserted through one of the cuts enabling the surgeon to examine the joint. Surgical instruments can then be placed through the other cuts enabling the surgeon to treat any problems.


What complications can occur?

General complications

• Pain
• Bleeding
• Infection of the surgical site (wound)
• Scarring

Specific complications

• Bleeding into the joint
• Infection in the joint
• Severe pain, stiffness and loss of use of the arm and hand (complex regional pain syndrome)
• Damage to nerves
• Blood clot in the axillary vein near your armpit

How soon will I recover?

Usually you will be discharged the same day. To help you recover from the operation your physiotherapist may give you exercises and advice. Returning to performing normal activities can take up to three months, but frequent exercise will help you get back to normal much sooner. Before you start be sure to seek advice from the relevant healthcare professional or your GP. It will take time for the pain to lessen and for movement to increase, but most people will experience a very good improvement. However, symptoms may come back in the future.


Using this procedure your surgeon is able to diagnose and treat the problem area around the joint. Due to the less invasive technique, an arthroscopy usually reduces the amount of pain you feel and it will ensure a speedier recovery after surgery.
We look forward to hearing from you to discuss your needs and see how we can get you the best treatment, quickly and affordably.

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