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Shoulder arthroscopic decompression

Arthroscopic decompression is a keyhole surgery often used to treat shoulder impingement. The aim is to create space in your shoulder joint between the acromion bone (shoulder blade) and the rotator cuff tendons.

Most patients with shoulder impingement find that their symptoms can be relieved without surgery. Your consultant will likely recommend that non-surgical interventions, such as physiotherapy or steroid injections, are tried before surgery.

If you are experiencing pain in your shoulder, book a consultation with a specialist. It is important to investigate the cause of the pain further to help rule out other issues, such as arthritis or torn ligaments.

Experts at diagnosing shoulder pain

Shorter waiting times: Shoulder pain can prevent you from living life to the full. That’s why we offer consultant appointments, diagnostics and surgery with shorter waiting times.

World-class surgeons: Our Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeons specialise in shoulder issues. With access to state-of-the-art facilities and the latest techniques and technologies, they are dedicated to providing the highest possible standard of care.

A team of specialists: If surgery is the recommended route forward, you’ll be under the care of our orthopaedic surgeons, theatre staff, nurses and physiotherapists, all of whom are highly skilled at working with shoulder patients.

Your arthroscopic decompression questions answered

Arthroscopic subacromial decompression (also called acromioplasty) is a type of keyhole surgery that aims to create space around the tendons in the shoulder joint. It is a treatment that may be offered to patients with shoulder impingement.

Impingement is a common cause of pain in the shoulder. It happens when a tendon in the shoulder joint catches on bone or tissue when the arm is moved.

If you feel pain when you lift your arm (particularly above your head), you may be experiencing shoulder impingement. Symptoms can also include pain on the top and outer side of your shoulder, pain at night or weakness in the arm.

When you lift your arm, the rotator cuff moves through the subacromial space – a narrow opening at the top of the shoulder. If bone growths (called bone spurs) have formed on the underside of the acromion (shoulder blade), they can rub against one of the tendons causing pain.

Overuse or injury can also cause issues. The tendon can become swollen, which causes pain as it passes through the narrow space, or the bursa (the area between the tendon and acromion) can become inflamed.

If you are experiencing shoulder pain, it’s important to book a consultation with a specialist. They will want to discuss how and when the pain started and see you in person for a physical examination. You are likely to be referred for scans, such as an MRI or X-Ray, to support the diagnosis.

Most patients find that non-surgical interventions are effective at relieving the symptoms of impingement. These can include rest, physiotherapy, pain relief or steroid injections. Surgery is only usually recommended when non-surgical interventions have not been effective

Our friendly team will ensure you are fully prepared ahead of your surgery and will tell you what to expect on the day.

You will be asked not to eat anything on the day of your surgery. You might also be asked to stop smoking or taking certain medications.

As the surgery requires a general anaesthetic, you will need to arrange for someone to drive you home after the procedure. It’s also recommended that they stay with you for the first day or so.

Arthroscopy is a type of keyhole surgery that involves inserting a small camera and special surgical tools into the joint.

The aim of arthroscopic decompression is to release any tight soft tissues, remove the second subacromial bursa and shave away any bone spurs on the underside of the acromion. It’s also an opportunity for your surgeon to take a closer look at the joint to see if there are any other reasons why you might be experiencing shoulder pain.

Arthroscopic decompression is usually a day-case procedure, which means most patients can return home on the same day as their surgery.

Following shoulder decompression, a full recovery can take anywhere between three to six months. Our physiotherapists will show you exercises you can do to recover as quickly and as safely as possible.

It is likely that you will be wearing a sling for up to three weeks after surgery, and the shoulder will feel stiff and sore. It will be a few weeks before you can drive or return to work and a few months before you can do anything that involves reaching above your head. Your consultant will be able to advise you on what is safe and sensible to do as you progress.

No surgery is without risk, including those associated with general anaesthetic. For arthroscopic decompression surgery, complications can include infection, bleeding, blood clots or a reaction to the anaesthetic.

It’s also possible that the surrounding tissues could be damaged during surgery or that you might experience stiffness in the shoulder afterwards - a condition known as ‘frozen shoulder’.

There may be other risks you need to consider, and the consultant will discuss these and the limitations of surgery with you ahead of the procedure.

You may be covered by private medical insurance, or you may wish to consider spreading the cost of your surgery by opting for a monthly payment plan.

We aim to make our costs as transparent as possible, but it’s important to talk everything through in detail with your consultant at the time of your appointment. Some costs may be paid directly to the hospital, while others, such as your consultant fees, may be paid directly to the consultant.

Sulis Hospital Bath

If you are experiencing pain or discomfort in your shoulder, talk to the specialists at Sulis Hospital Shoulder and Elbow Unit. You’ll be welcomed by a highly experienced and dedicated team that includes specialist orthopaedic surgeons, nursing and theatre staff, and the physiotherapists who will support your recovery.

With shorter waiting times for appointments with expert consultants, we could even help you to get seen sooner. Get in touch today to book your initial consultation.

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Combining a calming hospital environment with outstanding patient care so you can recover as quickly as possible.

  • Covered by health insurance? Yes

  • Can I pay privately? Yes

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