What is arthroscopic subacromial decompression?

Arthroscopic subacromial decompression is a less invasive procedure created to alleviate pressure on the ligament that makes up the coracoacromial arch by shaving away the underbelly of the acromion. As a result, the procedure helps raise the top compartment of the shoulder to create enough space for the rotator cuff tendons. Therefore, the tendon can move without interference, which helps break the cycle of persistent friction that leads to inflammation of the tendon.

How does Dr van Niekerk perform arthroscopic subacromial decompression?

Arthroscopic subacromial decompression involves creating about two to four small 1 cm incisions rather than one large cut to access the inside of the joint. A cannula is a tube placed through one of the incisions to pass surgical tools through the shoulder joint without harming surrounding tissue. Normally, a camera passed through the joint displays images of the inside of the shoulder on the doctor’s monitor in his operating room. The images guide him to evaluate the extent of damage done to nearby tissue and the severity of the patient’s condition. Next, a shaver can be passed through another opening for Dr van Niekerk to remove the irritated bursa. Once he removes the affected bursa, he examines the rotator cuff to check for tears.

What is recovery like?

After surgery, you will be requested to wear an arm sling to facilitate the seamless movement of the shoulder. Furthermore, you can engage in gentle shoulder motions following surgery because these exercises will help you regain the function of the joint. Your physical therapist will work with you over the next couple of weeks by helping you strengthen your shoulder. Usually, Dr van Niekerk prescribes medications to help manage your pain until your shoulder heals completely. You can take two to three months to engage in sports that involve throwing heavy objects.


Why do I need subacromial decompression surgery?

Arthroscopic subacromial decompression is primarily performed to treat impingement syndrome.

When can I exercise again?

Dr van Niekerk will advise when you can begin exercising again. Normally, once the swelling goes down, you can resume light exercises.

How long is recovery expected to take?

You can expect a full recovery within four to six weeks after the procedure.