Shoulder Arthroscopy Surgery Cost and Procedure Guide

Shoulder arthroscopy or arthroscopic shoulder surgery is a type of orthopaedic surgery that uses only small incisions, surgical tools, and a small camera to diagnose and treat shoulder problems. Also called keyhole surgery, arthroscopy is a valuable orthopaedic treatment as it is much easier for most patients to recover from when compared to traditional surgical methods.

Why Have Shoulder Arthroscopy Surgery?

Shoulder arthroscopy is a very versatile type of less invasive surgery. It can be used to treat and diagnose a wide range of shoulder issues.

Any patient with undiagnosed shoulder pain or other shoulder mobility issues that are not well managed with non-surgical methods including painkillers, steroid injections and physiotherapy. There are two main types of arthroscopic shoulder surgery. One is primarily investigative and is recommended to patients if their shoulder problems cannot be diagnosed with x-rays, MRIs or other medical imaging.

The other is more treatment-based and reparative. The possible shoulder problems that can be diagnosed or treated with shoulder arthroscopy include:

  • Ligament or cartilage repair
  • Shoulder dislocation
  • Arthritis of the clavicle
  • Bone spurs
  • Shoulder stiffness

How Much Does Shoulder Arthroscopy Surgery Cost?

Arthroscopic shoulder surgery can be done for a variety of reasons.

The majority of arthroscopic shoulder surgery can be put into two categories: investigative that attempts to diagnose the cause of the discomfort, and reparative that treats an injury. Very generally, investigative shoulder arthroscopy will cost less than an operation that includes the treatment of an injury or disease. This is because it takes a more complex and longer surgery to repair an injury. This is a part of the reason the price for arthroscopic shoulder surgery varies widely.

In the UK, the cost of shoulder arthroscopy at a private hospital ranges from £3,000 to £6,200.

Other factors that impact the price of shoulder arthroscopy include:

  • Location of the hospital
  • Hospital fees
  • Pre-op services
  • Post-op services
  • Medications and aftercare package

It is also important to know that if the arthroscopic shoulder surgery is purely investigative, another surgery to repair the shoulder problem may be recommended. This surgery will be priced on its own and arranged after a diagnosis or treatment plan is available.

The Shoulder Arthroscopic Procedure

On average, arthroscopic shoulder surgery takes between 30 to 90 minutes to complete.

The procedure is usually performed with the patient under general anaesthesia, meaning they are given medication that puts them into a deep dreamless sleep. In some cases, it can also be done under a local anaesthetic that numbs the shoulder area with a sedative that keeps the patient relaxed throughout the procedure.

Types of Shoulder Arthroscopy Incisions

Arthroscopy is different from other types of surgery because only very small incisions are needed to perform the procedure.

There are usually 2 or 3 incisions and they are usually very small, reaching only one or two centimetres long at the largest.

Generally, one is placed on the back and another on the front, and a third may be placed on the side of the shoulder.

The surgeon will discuss the placement of the incisions well before the day of the surgery.

Shoulder Arthroscopy Procedure

Once the incisions are made on the shoulder, the surgeon inserts an instrument that fills the shoulder cavity with sterile water. Filling the shoulder with water not only creates room for the arthroscopic tools to move, it also helps the camera better visibility.

When filled with water, the arthroscope camera and tools are inserted into the shoulder.

Investigative Arthroscopic Shoulder Surgery

For investigative arthroscopic shoulder surgery, the surgeon examines the shoulder to diagnose or investigate any underlying issues.

When they are happy with their investigation or diagnosis, they remove the fluid and tools from the shoulder.

The incisions are closed and the surgery is over.

Reparative Arthroscopic Shoulder Surgery

The procedure for reparative shoulder arthroscopy is more complex than an investigative procedure.

When the incisions are made and the shoulder is filled with sterile fluid, the surgeon uses the arthroscopic tools to repair a variety of shoulder issues.

The most common problems addressed via shoulder arthroscopy include:

  • Repair of ligaments or rotator cuff
  • Cartilage repair including the labrum
  • Removal of loose cartilage or labrum
  • Arthritis treatment including removal of bone spurs
  • Subacromial decompression meaning shaving down the acromion bone

The diagram below shows the anatomy of the shoulder including the areas commonly treated by arthroscopic shoulder surgery.

The procedure for each of these problems is slightly different, though most involve either removing tissue, repairing tissue with sutures or smoothing bone.

The surgeon will fully explain what will be done during the procedure well before the day of the surgery.

When the surgeon is done with the treatment, they remove the arthroscopic tools and drain the shoulder of fluid and any debris.

The incisions are then closed and the surgery is done

Most patients are able to go home the same day as their arthroscopic shoulder surgery no matter if it was investigative or reparative.

Physiotherapy and Aftercare

Some patients of arthroscopic shoulder surgery are advised to wear a sling for several days after surgery. This is to protect the shoulder as it heals.

Physiotherapy is also an essential part of healing from orthopaedic surgery, including shoulder arthroscopy. The surgeon and physiotherapist design a physiotherapy plan for each patient to meet their specific needs.

It is vital to the future strength and range of motion of the shoulder to follow the physiotherapy plan exactly.

Potential Shoulder Arthroscopy Surgery Risks & Complications

As the reasons for performing a shoulder arthroscopy are so varied it is not possible to list all the potential risks and complications for each condition.

This is why it is important to discuss any concerns or questions regarding complications with the surgeon before surgery.

Generally, the risks and complications associated with shoulder arthroscopy surgery include but are not limited to:

  • Infection
  • Shoulder stiffness or difficulty moving
  • Post-operative pain
  • Nerve damage
  • Blood clots

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