Shoulder Arthroscopy

This page will answer some of the questions you may have about an arthroscopy of the shoulder. Please contact your GP or health professional if you have any specific questions.

What exactly is an arthroscopy?

Simply put it is keyhole surgery. A surgeon is able to look inside your shoulder using a tiny camera. Small incisions are made to the shoulder area, then the camera and surgical instruments are used to diagnose and treat the problem.

What are the benefits of this type of procedure?

Surgery will help detect what the problem is and usually treat it at the same time.

What are the alternatives to surgery?

Scans (CT and MRI) can be used to diagnose problems, but often an arthroscopy would still be advised to treat the problem.

What does the surgery involve?

A general anaesthetic is often used and the operations take around three quarters of an hour. Usually, between two and four small cuts will be made around the shoulder joint, then a small telescope is fed through one of the cuts enabling examination of the joint.  Surgical instruments are placed into the other incisions to treat any problems.

Figure 1
Arthroscopy of the shoulder

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What are the risks?


Pain, bleeding, infection of the surgical site (wound) and scarring.


Bleeding or infection in the joint, severe pain, stiffness, loss of use of the arm and hand (complex regional pain syndrome), damage to the nerves and blood clots in the axillary vein near your armpit.

Will it take long to recover?

No. Usually you will be discharged the same day as the operation. You may be given exercises and advice to help you recover sooner, but full recovery can take up to 3 months. Before you start any exercise, please seek advice from the relevant healthcare professional. It may take time for the pain to reduce and mobility to increase. Most patients will see a vast improvement but symptoms can return.


Your surgeon is able to diagnose and treat any problems around the joint. An arthroscopy usually reduces the pain you feel and will ensure a speedy recovery.


EIDO Healthcare Limited – The operation and treatment information on this website is produced using information from EIDO Healthcare Ltd and is licensed by Aspen Healthcare. 

The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

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