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Surgery for Shoulder Impingement

For many people, nonoperative treatments are enough to relieve shoulder impingement symptoms. But if these and other treatments haven’t worked, surgery may be an option. Surgery can help free up the joint space, allowing pain-free motion. Talk to your healthcare provider to see if surgery is right for you.

Surgery for shoulder impingement

The type of surgery you have depends on your shoulder problem. Surgery can remove the bursa if it is swollen. If the coracoacromial ligament is tight, it may be released. If the acromion is hooked or has bone spurs, a portion of it may be removed. Before surgery, you’ll be given medicine to keep you free from pain. There are different types of surgery, arthroscopy and open surgery:

  • During arthroscopy, small incisions are made in the shoulder. Next, a small, lighted instrument (arthroscope) is inserted. A tiny camera is attached on one end of the arthroscope. The camera sends images to a video monitor, allowing the surgeon to see inside the shoulder.

  • During open surgery, incisions are made in the shoulder so the surgeon can work inside.

Front view of shoulder joint showing inflamed bursa being removed.
A swollen bursa may be removed.
Front view of shoulder joint showing tendon released and bone to be removed.
A tight coracoacromial ligament may be released.
Front view of shoulder joint showing tendon released and bone to be removed.
A portion of the acromion may be removed.

Risks and complications of surgery

Your healthcare provider will discuss the possible risks and complications of the procedure with you. These may include:

  • Infection

  • Damage to nerves or blood vessels

  • Loss of flexibility

  • Symptoms do not completely resolve

Online Medical Reviewer: Fetterman, Anne, RN, BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Joseph, Thomas N., MD
Last Review Date: 10/12/2015
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