Private shoulder arthroscopy (keyhole surgery)

What is a shoulder arthroscopy?

A shoulder arthroscopy, also referred to as keyhole surgery, allows your doctor to see inside your shoulder, as well as diagnose and in some cases treat the problem. This is done by inserting a camera into your shoulder, which is inserted using small cuts in the skin. 

What are the benefits of shoulder arthroscopy?

The main benefit of shoulder arthroscopy treatment is to confirm exactly what is causing shoulder problems and in many cases to treat the problem at the same time.

Are there any alternatives to surgery?

Problems inside a joint can often be diagnosed using special tests such as CT and MRI scans. However, you may then need an arthroscopy to treat the problem.

What will happen during my shoulder arthroscopy?

When you meet with your consultant surgeon they'll ensure that you have the opportunity to ask any questions you may have about your shoulder arthroscopy, they'll discuss with you what'll happen before, during and after the procedure and any pain you might have. Take this time with your consultant surgeon to ensure your mind is put at rest. We know that having an operation of any type can be stressful so we've created a short downloadable guide that you might find useful to print off and use to write down any questions you may have. Do take this with you to your consultation. 

What does the operation involve?

The shoulder arthroscopy treatment is usually performed under a general anaesthetic. The operation usually takes about forty minutes.

Your surgeon will usually make about two to four small cuts around the joint. They will place a small telescope through one of the cuts so they can examine the joint. They will place surgical instruments through the other cuts if they need to treat any problems with the joint (see figure 1).

What complications can happen?

1. General complications of any operation

  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Infection in the surgical wound
  • Unsightly scarring

2. Specific complications of this operation

  • 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?

You should be able to go home later on the same day.

Your physiotherapist may give you exercises and advice to help you to recover from the operation. It can take up to three months to get back to normal activities.

Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, you should ask a member of the healthcare team or your GP for advice.

Most people who have shoulder arthroscopy treatment have a major improvement. However, it does take time for pain to lessen and movement to increase. Symptoms often come back with time.

Want to look at other treatments? or find it on the A-Z list.