Arthroscopic subacromial decompression

This procedure is performed for conditions such as subacromial bursitis, rotator cuff tendinitis and rotator cuff tears.

The Operation

The operation is done by ‘key hole surgery’; usually through two 5mm puncture wounds. The operation involves shaving about 5mm from the under-surface of the acromion.

General Advice

As with all surgery there is a risk of some complications. These are rare, but you should be aware of them before your operation. They include:

  • Complications relating to the anaesthetic.
  • Infection.
  • Injury to the nerves or blood vessels around the shoulder.
  • Prolonged stiffness and or pain.
  • Failure to achieve successful result.
  • A need to redo the surgery.

What to expect afterwards…


A nerve block is usually used during the surgery. This means that immediately after the operation the shoulder and arm often feel completely numb. This may last for a few hours. After this the shoulder may well be sore and you will be given painkillers to help this whilst in hospital. These can be continued after you are discharged home. Ice packs may also help reduce pain. Wrap crushed ice or frozen peas in a damp, cold cloth and place on the shoulder for up to 15 minutes.

Wearing a sling

You will return from theatre wearing a sling. The surgeon/physiotherapist will advise you on how long you are to continue wearing the sling. This is usually 10-14 days as comfort allows.

The Wound

This keyhole operation is usually done through two 5mm puncture wounds. There may be stitches or small sticking plaster strips over the wounds. These should be kept dry until healed. This usually takes 10 to 14 days.


You will not be able to drive for the first 10-14 days. Your surgeon will confirm when you may begin.

Returning to work

This will depend on your occupation. You will need to discuss this with your surgeon.

Leisure Activities

Your physiotherapist and surgeon will advise you when it is safe to resume your leisure activities.

Follow up appointments

An appointment will be made for you to be reviewed at 2 weeks.


You may well be expected to perform the following exercises when you leave hospital. Please check with your physiotherapist before commencing.