What is a Shoulder Scope?

Alex Paul

A shoulder scope — more commonly known as a shoulder arthroscopy — is a type of operation used to treat a number of different conditions such as rotator cuff tears and frozen shoulder. Shoulder scopes are performed using small incisions in the shoulder through which a camera and other instruments are inserted. The camera can then be used to view the joint and pinpoint the exact location of the injury. The recovery time of a shoulder scope varies depending on the specific injury but is often shorter than traditional surgery.

A shoulder scope may be used to treat shoulder injuries.
A shoulder scope may be used to treat shoulder injuries.

The primary difference between arthroscopic surgery and open surgery is the size of the incisions. Due to the small size of the incisions used for shoulder scopes, the surgeon may have a limited ability to view the injury. For this reason there is no “best” option when it comes to arthroscopic and open surgery — the right choice is always based on the individual’s condition.

A doctor may recommend a shoulder scope operation to treat rotator cuff tears.
A doctor may recommend a shoulder scope operation to treat rotator cuff tears.

There are several benefits to using a shoulder scope instead of open surgery. The main one is that there is much less damage to the surrounding tissue. This can decrease healing times and allow the patient to resume his or her former activities quicker. Shoulder scopes also have the advantage of only leaving small scars.

Not all shoulder injuries can be treated with arthroscopic surgery although many can. Impingement syndrome, for example, is regularly treated using a shoulder scope if other forms of treatment such as rest and stretching have not helped. Tendinitis in the bicep tendon can also be treated using a shoulder scope to reduce pain. Injuries such as rotator cuff tears are sometimes treated with an arthroscopy procedure although there is still some debate as to whether this is effective.

Recovering from an arthroscopy can still be a long and difficult process even though smaller incisions are used compared to open surgery. Many people who have an arthroscopy are under the impression that recovery and return to previous activities will happen quickly and without pain. In some situations this may be the case, but most of the time a period of recovery and physiotherapy will be required.

Whether a shoulder scope is the right choice for a specific injury depends on a number of factors. These include whether all conservative treatment methods have been tried and how severe the injury is. For this reason there may be disagreement between two orthopedic surgeons as to which treatment method is best for an individual.

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