Arthroscopic Shoulder Surgery

Surgery of the shoulder can often be done through a few small incisions, with the aid of an arthroscope, rather than through one larger incision. Rotator cuff tears are often repaired arthroscopically. The surgeon uses the arthroscope (or scope, for short) to visualize the inside of the joint. A camera at the end of the scope with a very bright fiber optic light source is connected to a video monitor in the operating room, allowing the surgeon view a live picture of the inside of the shoulder joint (Figure 1).



Figure 1. The inside of the shoulder joint, as viewed from the arthroscope. The grey plastic cannula has been inserted into the portal. Arthroscopic surgical instruments can now be introduced into the joint through the cannula.


Shoulder arthroscopy is performed through "portals". These are small skin incisions, generally about 1/2 inch long, that are located over specific areas of the shoulder joint. Small plastic tubes called cannulas are inserted into the portals so that instruments can be placed in the shoulder joint. These instruments that have been designed to remove inflamed tissue, attach sutures to bone, and repair torn tendons. Patients who have arthroscopic surgery often go home the same day.

Go to the Interactive Shoulder page to see animations of an arthroscopic rotator cuff and Bankart lesion repair.

Watch videos of actual arthroscopic surgery (you will have to set your browser to allow popups):

Video 1a. A rotator cuff tear is identified. A suture anchor is then inserted into the bone. The blue and white sutures will eventually be used to repair the rotator cuff and hold the tissue down to the bone.
Video 1b. The cuff is now repaired. Note that the sutures have been tied through the cuff.
Video 2. An arthroscopic Bankart repair.

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