How arthroscopy is different from other types of surgery

If you’re about to undergo arthroscopy for your shoulder, you may wonder how it differs from conventional surgery. Read on to learn the benefits of arthroscopy for evaluation, diagnosis, and repair of shoulder joint problems.


If our expert orthopedic team at Austin Shoulder Institute suggests arthroscopy to address your shoulder joint issue, don’t panic. This form of surgery differs from other types of surgery in that it’s less invasive and results in faster healing.

Arthroscopy is effective but not brand new, so it has lots of history of success behind it. Doctors have been performing shoulder arthroscopy since the 1970s, so you can trust it as a solid strategy for your shoulder problem.

What is arthroscopy?

Arthroscopy may be used for evaluation, diagnosis, and repair of a shoulder (or other joint) issue. The name of the surgery comes from the use of an arthroscope, a small camera that’s inserted into the joint to provide the surgeon with a clear picture on a video screen.

The surgeon then uses the image to guide small instruments within the joint to inspect tissue and repair it, when necessary.

How is arthroscopy different from open surgery?

Open surgery requires large incisions so the surgeon can see inside the joint. The larger incisions also are needed to make room for standard-size instruments.

With arthroscopic surgery, the camera is a game changer. It provides the surgeon an optimal view without large incisions. And your surgeon can use tiny instruments successfully with the help of the camera.

What are the benefits of arthroscopy?

The smaller incisions used with arthroscopic surgery means you lose less blood and have less scarring. You also experience less pain and a faster recovery than you might with conventional open surgery.

The procedure can be completed faster and is easier on both the surgeon and the patient. You spend less time in the hospital and need fewer pain medications with arthroscopy. In most cases, we perform the procedure on an outpatient basis, meaning you go home to recover the same day as your surgery.

While recovery from arthroscopy is faster than conventional open surgery, you still need several weeks of rest and physical therapy to resolve all pain and restore function. Full recovery from arthroscopy can still take several months.

Immediate pain should resolve in about a week following arthroscopy, compared to several weeks following open surgery. During this time, you may wear a sling and take over-the-counter or prescription pain medications to alleviate your discomfort.

When is shoulder arthroscopy recommended?

If you have a painful shoulder condition that doesn’t resolve with noninvasive methods, such as steroid injections and physical therapy, our doctors at Austin Shoulder Institute may recommend arthroscopic surgery.

Common conditions that benefit from arthroscopy include rotator cuff repair, labrum repair, removal of inflamed tissue, and repair for recurrent shoulder dislocations. In rarer cases, arthroscopy may be used for nerve release, cyst excisions, or fracture repair.

Arthroscopy is not appropriate for shoulder joint replacements.

At Austin Shoulder Institute, we can help you through all steps of the way to heal your shoulder injury. When conservative treatments fail, arthroscopy may be the next step. Don’t fear the surgery, but look at it as an effective and relatively efficient way to restore function in your shoulder.


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