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Am I A Candidate for Minimally Invasive Shoulder Surgery?

Fitness woman suffering from shoulder injury while exercisingOver the past few decades, the medical field has seen a rise in minimally invasive surgery techniques across all specialties. New advances in minimally invasive techniques mean a number of things for patients, including faster recovery times and fewer complications. In the orthopedic field, this has translated into new ways to replace joints, repair sports injuries and treat complex musculoskeletal problems.


Shoulder injuries in particular are one common problem that may lead you to an orthopedic physician. Here’s an overview of what minimally invasive shoulder surgery involves and what injuries and conditions it may be used to treat.


What is minimally invasive orthopedic surgery?

In order to understand how minimally invasive shoulder surgery works, it’s important to have a clear understanding of what’s involved with any type of minimally invasive surgery. Whereas traditional surgery often requires a large incision and significant trauma to soft tissue surrounding the treatment area, minimally invasive orthopedic surgery attempts to minimize both the size of surgical incisions as well as the trauma to surrounding soft tissue, while accomplishing the same surgical goal. In orthopedics, this can mean the difference between exposing an entire joint through a large, open incision and using small, targeted incisions to address only the problem area. This results in less risk during surgery, less post-operative pain and shorter recovery times for patients.


How does minimally invasive shoulder surgery work?

Minimally invasive shoulder surgery, also referred to as shoulder arthroscopy, involves making two or more small incisions in the shoulder and inserting a camera mounted on a thin, tube (called an arthroscope) in order to visualize the interior of the joint. Small surgical tools are then inserted through the other incisions, and the entire operation is broadcast to a television screen. The surgeon uses this enlarged image to help guide the instruments and make whatever repairs are necessary. This type of procedure can be used to relieve painful symptoms caused by damage to the rotator cuff tendons, labrum, articular cartilage, and other soft tissues surrounding the shoulder joint.


Am I a candidate for minimally invasive shoulder surgery?

For many orthopedic shoulder injuries and conditions, nonoperative management and traditional surgery are still the preferred methods of treatment. However, when surgery is necessary, you should consult with an experienced orthopedic surgeon who can explain your options and determine whether a minimally invasive procedure would be best for your needs.


Shoulder problems that may be treated with shoulder arthroscopy include the following.


Rotator Cuff Injury

An arthroscopic rotator cuff repair may be needed if you have suffered from a rotator cuff tear, either as a result of a traumatic injury (acute tear) or as a result of wear and tear over time (degenerative tear). It may also be recommended for a rotator cuff injury that has not improved after several months of nonsurgical treatment.


Biceps Tendon Injury

The biceps tendon actually starts in the shoulder joint. If it is torn or injured then it can be a significant source of pain or discomfort. Minimally invasive shoulder surgery is able to either repair a torn biceps tendon or actually move it out of the shoulder joint so it is no longer a source of pain.


Bone Spur

When bone spurs develop in the shoulder as a result of cartilage degeneration and bone-on-bone joint damage, a procedure called a bone spur removal may be recommended. This procedure can be performed arthroscopically to remove the painful spurs and help relieve symptoms. Without treatment, bone spurs may lead to rotator cuff tears and tendinitis in the shoulder.


Shoulder Instability

A shoulder that partially or completely dislocates due to shoulder instability or a traumatic injury may require a shoulder instability repair. Performed arthroscopically, this type of procedure can be used to reattach and tighten loose ligaments in the shoulder to ensure proper support and help prevent future dislocations.


Labral Injury

An arthroscopic labral repair or removal may be needed if you have suffered from a labral tear. Depending on whether the shoulder is stable or unstable as a result of the injury, this repair may involve just removing the torn flap/section or repairing and reattaching the tendon in cases where the tendon is entirely detached or if it extends into the biceps tendon.


Inflamed Tissue or Loose Cartilage

Arthroscopic removal of inflamed tissue or loose cartilage in the shoulder may be recommended if conservative therapies are not successful at improving symptoms. Inflamed tissue can result from a traumatic shoulder injury or disease, whereas loose cartilage often results from degenerative or acute cartilage-related injuries.


If you are suffering from a traumatic shoulder injury or degenerative shoulder condition, the first step to finding relief starts with a consultation with an orthopedic specialist. If conservative treatment options fail to relieve your symptoms and surgery is absolutely necessary, it is worth asking your doctor about whether shoulder arthroscopy is right for you.

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