Understanding the Basics Behind Shoulder Arthroscopy
What is Shoulder Arthroscopy?
Getting to the root of shoulder problems.
There’s no need to suffer from shoulder pain with conditions like labral tears, rotator cuff injuries, or other musculoskeletal issues. Shoulder arthroscopy in Kansas City from Kansas City Orthopedic Alliance is a safe and effective way to treat shoulder issues without the need for open surgery.
Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure technique that allows surgeons to see inside the joint. After your initial examination with a KCOA physician, we will recommend the best treatment for your needs. Our practitioners provide the comprehensive care you need so you can return to the activities you enjoy.
Shoulder injuries can manifest in a variety of painful ways. Some common symptoms that may require a shoulder arthroscopy include:
- Reduced movement or pain when moving your shoulder
- Shoulder or upper arm weakness
- Numb or tingling sensations in your arms
- Burning sensation in your shoulder or arms
- Completely immobile or “locked” joint
Kansas City Orthopedic Alliance Shoulder Injuries Assessment
Assessing the Injury
Finding the right shoulder treatment in Kansas City starts with an assessment.
You can think of shoulder pain as a spectrum, with some instances being more severe than others. The KCOA orthopedic specialists always focus on each individual patient and their concerns before creating a treatment plan.
Therefore, during your initial appointment, we will often ask questions such as:
- Does your pain currently limit you or your activities?
- Has your pain progressed or worsened recently?
- Have you experienced any locking in your shoulder or an inability to rotate your arm?
- Have you noticed any change in your symptoms that has made it more challenging to function?
- What are your lifestyle goals?
- How has pain affected those goals?
From there, we can decide whether shoulder arthroscopy will align best with your needs and lifestyle goals. After a proper assessment, we often begin with a physical examination to help determine the origin point of your pain. In some cases, advanced testing may be required for a full diagnosis.
Also called radiographs, an X-ray captures a picture of the bones comprising the shoulder. Orthopedic physicians may order an X-ray to rule out the possibility of a fracture (broken bone), osteoarthritis, or other bone-related condition.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
MRI captures images of muscles, bones, ligaments, and tendons to help provide information other tests can’t detail. During an MRI, you will lie on a table that slides into a tube-shaped scanner. The machine creates a magnetic field around you, using pulsed radio waves to form the MRI images.
Electromyograms (EMG) and Nerve Conduction Studies
Our board-certified physiatrists utilize electromyograms (EMGs) and nerve conduction studies to help determine whether nerves and muscles respond properly to stimuli. The EMG measures the electrical activity of your muscles at rest and in motion, while nerve conduction studies determine how fast and effectively your nerves and muscles receive electrical signals.
Establishing a Care Plan
Based on the results of your interview, examination, and imaging studies, you can expect a custom care plan catered specifically to you.
Many people believe it’s best to wait until pain becomes severe, leading them to “put off” or delay treatments like shoulder arthroscopy.
If you are in constant discomfort, have shooting or stabbing pains, have limited range of motion, or an inability to perform your daily activities, shoulder arthroscopy may be right for you.
New technologies allow patients with shoulder pain to fully recover and enjoy the benefits of a more functional, pain-free lifestyle.
Prior to surgery, you will typically receive at least 2 phone calls:
- A hospital registration representative will call to gather insurance and other personal information.
- A registered nurse will call to review your health history and medication information.
Dependent on your health history, your physician may require:
- Pre-surgical laboratory tests
- Primary care clearance
Pre-operative instructions will vary depending on your physician and the location of your surgery.
Always check with your physician prior to surgery for their specific instructions.
Most physicians require patients to not eat or drink after midnight prior to surgery the next day.
Additionally, you will need a designated family member or friend to drive you home on the day you are released from the hospital. Surgical patients cannot drive themselves home.
Day of Surgery
If you schedule your surgery with a KCOA physician, you can expect the following on surgery day:
- A receptionist will check you in at the hospital registration desk.
- A nurse will take you back and prepare you for surgery. They will start an IV, prepare the surgical site, and review your medical history and medications.
- Your surgeon and anesthesiologist will visit with you prior to your operation.
- The surgical team will take you to the operation suite for surgery.
How it Works
Shoulder arthroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure that allows surgeons to see inside the joint. Your provider inserts a small tube with a camera through a minor incision, allowing the surgeon to make a more definitive diagnosis, and eliminating the need for a large, open surgical incision.
We typically use arthroscopy to make a diagnosis when X-rays and other imaging tools do not provide answers. In some cases, like with rotator cuff injuries, KCOA physicians use arthroscopy to treat orthopedic conditions.
During a shoulder arthroscopy in Kansas City, you will remain under general anesthesia. After creating a small incision, the surgeon inserts a tiny camera (arthroscope) into the shoulder joint, giving a clear guide for the surgical instruments.
Saline-based fluid flows through the arthroscope to keep the image clear and bleeding minimal. This is quite different from an open surgery, which requires a much larger incision and longer recovery times.
After assessing the injury and condition, your surgeon will begin the repair. Shoulder arthroscopy gives access to many repair options, like repairing the rotator cuff and labrum, smoothing the surrounding cartilage, removing inflamed tissue, and reshaping joints to prevent recurring injuries.
After your surgery, you will remain in the recovery room before being discharged. Our experienced clinical team will monitor you during this recovery and provide pain relief medication, if needed.
Arthroscopy isn’t as invasive as normal surgeries, but it may still take from a few weeks to a few months for your shoulder to fully recover.
Because of its proximity to the head and neck and the concentration of nerve endings, shoulder surgeries can cause quite a bit of discomfort.
After shoulder arthroscopy many patients experience aching, soreness, and swelling. This is common and expected.
What to Expect
Most people are in a sling for at least a month, but for more severe cases, it may be extended to 2 months.
You will gradually regain your motion and strength with the help of a physical or occupational therapist.
To prevent further injuries, it’s important to maintain good posture (and ensure that your shoulder is in good position relative to the scapula), focus on your core strength, and promote healthy mobility of the shoulder.
Causes of Shoulder Pain
The body has different kinds of joints, and they all face different challenges. The shoulder is a “ball-in-socket” joint, meaning it’s composed of a ball-like structure that moves inside a depression in the bone to allow for rotational movement. The ball-shaped head of your humerus (upper arm bone) that fits into the glenoid cavity in the scapula (shoulder blade) creates the shoulder joint.
In most instances, pain in your shoulder doesn’t come from these bones unless a fracture is present. Pain generators in the shoulder include disruptions to muscles, ligaments, cartilage, and tendons that surround and support this joint.
Surgery, even minimally invasive ones like shoulder arthroscopy, isn’t necessarily the first choice. Kansas City Orthopedic Alliance physicians prefer a more conservative approach to treatment, so we will typically exhaust all non-surgical options before recommending surgery. Non-surgical treatments for shoulder injuries include:
- Physical Therapy – Movement can actually reduce pain and encourage healing in the shoulder, as movement increases circulation in the joint, supplying oxygen and other nutrients that support joint health and function.
- Medications – Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as Advil) or prescription medications. Especially with NSAIDs, you should always talk to your doctor to ensure they are the right treatment for you.
- Injections – Cortisone injections can help reduce inflammation in the shoulder and can even provide additional insight into the cause of your shoulder pain. The amount of relief from an injection varies by patient, but often in combination with physical therapy, patients can experience significant improvements in their function.
- Regenerative Medicines – Regenerative medicines like stem cell injections or platelet-rich plasma can help nourish worn or damaged tissue. This option works best if you have mild-to-moderate shoulder pain.
Frequently Asked Questions
Kansas City Orthopedic Alliance is here to help.
Our care is personal. Our team is knowledgeable. And we’re more available than ever.
With access to board-certified specialists across Kansas City, we have the tools to meet almost every musculoskeletal condition.
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Dr. Moore was thorough, kind, and allowed me to ask many questions during my visit. She took the time to answer all my questions. I would recommend her to my friends and family with certainty that they would be treated with one of the best.
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