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Shoulder Arthroscopy: What is It?
Through a small incision, a small fiber optic instrument called an arthroscope is inserted into the shoulder joint. Then a picture can be taken with a camera that is attached to a television monitor. By utilizing the arthroscope, the whole shoulder joint can be evaluated which includes the biceps tendon, the ligaments, the cartilage surface, the rotator cuff and the joint lining. Small instruments that measure from 3 to 5 millimeters in size are placed in through another incision so that problems can be diagnosed and tissue that has been damaged can be reconstructed, removed or repaired. This is called a shoulder anthroscopy.
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After the Procedure
There are sutures after shoulder arthroscopy so you will need to know how to properly care for them after you are discharged and go home. You will have a very large bandage covering your shoulder when you leave the hospital. Usually, the physician will require that you not remove the bandage for three days. You won't be allowed to take a shower until you are able to get the bandage removed, again after two to three days. You don't want to get the sutures or the wound wet. The instructions probably will also state that you cannot take a bath until the wounds are totally healed which usually takes about two to three weeks after you have the shoulder arthroscopy.
The medical personnel will have a sling fitted for you to wear. Depending on what procedure was performed on your shoulder will determine how long you will have to wear the sling. While you are performing physical therapy and daily grooming, you may remove the sling.
An ice machine may be provided for you that will constantly encircle your shoulder with cold water. If one isn't provided for you, you should apply ice on top of the bandage for 30 minutes every hour for a few days. Do not use any type of heat producing element on the shoulder.
About seven to ten days after the shoulder arthroscopy is performed, the sutures will be removed at your physician's office. Sometimes, sutures are used that absorb into the body. In that case, the sutures will not be removed and will go away by themselves. You will be given instructions on some special type of exercises that can be done immediately following the shoulder arthroscopy and then others that can be utilized in about one to two weeks after the procedure.
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Recovery and Warnings
Depending on what kind of surgery was done will depend on how long it will take to fully recover from this procedure. One of the big problems with patients that have this type of surgery is that since the pain is not as bad as with open shoulder surgery, patients try to do more than they should too soon. It is critical that you only perform the exercises the doctor instructs you to do. The tissues that have been repaired need time in order to heal effectively.
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MedLine Plus, http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/007206.htm
Orthopaedic Specialists, http://orthspec.com/pdfs/Shoulder-Arthroscopy.pdf
Vernon Memorial Healthcare, http://www.vmh.org/content/shoulder
Image courtesy of the National Library of Medicine (NLM)