Authored by Revere Health

When To Have a Shoulder Arthroscopy

September 26, 2018 | Orthopedics

If you have a soft tissue injury to the shoulder and your pain does not go away with non-surgical treatment methods, your doctor may suggest shoulder arthroscopy to address your condition. A shoulder arthroscopy is a commonly performed procedure that has been in use since the 1970s. Arthroscopy gets its name from the small camera, or scope, that the surgeon inserts into the shoulder joint in order to allow him or her to inspect its interior structures. Based on the damage found during inspection, the doctor can then insert a series of tiny surgical instruments to correct the joint pathology. Because the procedure uses a series of small incisions rather than a large one, arthroscopy is less invasive than an open procedure. There is also less risk of complication with arthroscopy, and recovery time is typically shorter.

What Is the Procedure For?

Shoulder arthroscopy is a versatile procedure used to correct many soft tissue conditions of the shoulder that may result from chronic overuse, acute injury or age-related wear and tear. The most common arthroscopic procedures include repair of ligaments, removal of bone spurs, excision of loose cartilage and rotator cuff repair.

Who Decides If You Need One?

When you experience consistent shoulder pain, you will probably first see your primary care physician (PCP). If your PCP suspects that your condition may benefit from surgery, he or she will probably refer you to an orthopedic surgeon, who will perform an examination and perhaps an imaging study to get a better idea of what is going on inside your shoulder. If your orthopedic surgeon decides that you are an appropriate candidate for shoulder arthroscopy, he or she may recommend the surgery to you. A shoulder arthroscopy is an elective procedure, however, so ultimately the decision whether or not to have surgery is up to you.

What Do You Need To Do To Prepare For One?

Whenever you make a visit to a doctor, it is always a good idea to inform the doctor of what medications and supplements you are currently taking. This is especially important if you are considering having surgery, as your doctor may ask you to temporarily discontinue certain medications before having the procedure. If you have underlying medical conditions that may complicate the procedure, you may need to see your PCP prior to scheduling it to determine if you are healthy enough for surgery.

Once your doctors determine that you are ready, you can schedule your surgery. In the absence of potentially complicating medical problems, most arthroscopic procedures take place in an outpatient setting, such as a surgery center, rather than in a hospital. Regardless of where your procedure is taking place, the facility will contact you beforehand with specific instructions on what you need to do to prepare yourself for surgery. Following these instructions to the letter will help prevent complications during the operation.

An orthopedic surgeon can answer any questions you have about shoulder arthroscopy. If you have shoulder pain that is persistent and/or severe, make an appointment to speak with a healthcare professional.

Dr. Larsen chose to become an orthopedic surgeon after growing up watching his father work in the same profession. He observed the love his father had for taking care of people and improving lives by fixing problems with their knees and shoulders. Dr. Larsen enjoys communicating with his patients and working together to find a solution, either through surgery or lifestyle changes.



“Shoulder Arthroscopy.” MedlinePlus.

“Shoulder Arthroscopy.” OrthoInfo.


Mitchell Larsen, MD


Mitchell Larsen, MD

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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.