Shoulder Arthroscopy Basics


Arthroscopic shoulder surgery is one of the more common surgical procedures I perform. I have performed nearly 3,000 of them over the last 19 years from my San Diego area-based practice. These surgeries are performed for a variety of reasons, but the most common cause is rotator cuff tears.

These are outpatient procedures performed at my surgery center in La Jolla, California. The surgery takes less than an hour, and you go home the same day. It is typically performed under a light general anesthetic where you are still breathing on your own, with a long-acting nerve block for post-operative pain control. Through a series of 3-4 poke-hole size incisions, I insert a fiberoptic camera about the size of a ballpoint pen and perform the repair which is accomplished with sutures and sure anchors.

You wake up in a sling and go home that day. It takes about 10-12 weeks for the tendon to heal and you are in the sling for about 4-6 weeks. Even in the sling you can type, write, hold a cell phone or a cup of coffee, and dress yourself. Physical therapy starts about a week after surgery and will be ongoing once or twice a week for a few months.

Most people take some form of pain medication for a couple of weeks, but the need for narcotics has gone down tremendously due to the combination of the minimally invasive nature of the surgery, and the long-acting nerve block. It takes anywhere from 3-6 months to feel like you are over the surgery. Remember this type of surgery is why sports players “miss the season”. I commonly perform a shoulder PRP injection around the repaired tendon anywhere from the 4-6 week point to help the healing process. Most people find the surgery to be successful and can return to full activities. If you are suffering from pain due to a shoulder disorder give my office a call to schedule a consultation.

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