Shoulder decompression surgery

Shoulder decompression surgery

Shoulder decompression is a type of surgery used to correct the painful condition of shoulder impingement. Most often caused by the combination of repetitive activity and aging, shoulder impingement can happen when you raise your arm to shoulder height and the top of your shoulder (acromion) rubs against (impinges) the rotator cuff tendons and the bursae. The rotator cuff is a network of four muscles that come together as tendons to form a covering around the head of your upper arm bone (humerus). The bursae are fluid-filled sacs that lubricate and protect the tendons of the rotator cuff. Shoulder impingement can cause rotator cuff tendonitis (inflammation of the tendons) and bursitis (inflammation of the bursae).

In most parts of your body, your bones are surrounded by muscles. In the shoulder region, your muscle is surrounded by bone. This unusual arrangement of muscle between bones can cause the three inter-related conditions known as shoulder impingement syndrome (shoulder impingement, shoulder bursitis and rotator cuff tendonitis). Symptoms range from mild pain and limited movement to severe pain and inability to lift your arm.

About the surgery

If nonsurgical treatments fail to be effective in correcting shoulder impingement, your orthopaedist may recommend shoulder arthroscopy surgery — also referred to as "scoping the shoulder." Arthroscopic surgery is a minimally invasive form of shoulder decompression surgery. An arthroscope is a small tube containing a system of lenses, a light and a small video camera, that is inserted in a small incision. Surgical tools are inserted through other small incisions. The camera sends images to a video monitor stationed by the operating table that enables the surgeon to guide the camera and perform the procedure with the inserted surgical tools. With the magnified views from the video camera, your surgeon can inspect all the tissues of your shoulder including the cartilage, bones, tendons and ligaments. This inside view helps identify any problem areas and allows for any repair/treatment needed.

Animated video: Subacromial decompression

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