Subacromial Bursectomy

Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgery technique that may be used to treat patients with subacromial bursitis. A few small incisions are made around the joint to allow a camera and various instruments to pass through. These instruments are used to visualize the anatomic structures and remove the inflamed bursa.

  • Procedure

  • Why shoulder arthroscopy

  • Candidates

  • Recovery


A shoulder arthroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure that involves making a few small incisions (roughly 0.5 inch each) around the shoulder joint. These small portals allow a camera to enter the joint for visualization of the internal structures of the shoulder, as well as tools to repair any injuries. With a subacromial bursectomy, a shaver removes the bursa sac under the acromion. If a subacromial spur is present, this is also removed with a device called a burr.

  • This surgery is most often performed under general anesthesia with a nerve block, but can be performed with a nerve block and sedation.
  • This surgery is usually outpatient, which means the patient will be able to go home the same day.
  • The surgery typically lasts 1.5 hours.
  • Patient will be fit for a sling at an appointment in clinic before surgery and will need to bring the sling to surgery.
  • The incisions will be closed with absorbable suture with dressings that can usually be removed 2-3 days after surgery.
  • The sling will be placed on the patient prior to waking up from anesthesia.

Frequently Asked


How long will I need to wear my sling?

2 weeks, but the sling only needs to be worn for comfort. The sling should be removed at least 3x/day for elbow, wrist, and finger range of motion exercises. You should do pendulum exercises 3x/day as well.

Can I drive with a sling on?

You can drive when you feel safe to operate a vehicle with 1 functioning arm. This usually takes most patients a few weeks after surgery.

Do I have to wear the sling at night?

Yes. Patients are usually unaware of their arm movements at night. The sling helps to ensure that the arm stays in a good position for healing.

When do I start PT after surgery?

Physical therapy typically starts 2 weeks after surgery. 

When can I shower?

2 days after surgery. Once you remove the bandages, you will see 3 sticky white strips covering the wounds. These are called steri-strips and should be left in place until your first postoperative appointment.

How often do I need to use the ice machine?

The ice machine should be used for about 30 minutes at least 3 times a day until your first postop. You may ice more frequently if desired.

What is a nerve block?

An anesthetic injection performed by the anesthesiologist to turn off pain signals that go to a targeted region.

How can I control my pain after surgery?

This will be discussed at your preop appointment. If a narcotic is prescribed, the risks and side effects will be reviewed with you. We encourage you to try and discontinue these by your first postop appointment. Depending on your health history, you may be encouraged to take anti-inflammatories and Tylenol instead of the narcotics.

What are the risks of a shoulder arthroscopy?

The overall risk of a complication is less than 1%. The most common risk is shoulder stiffness from scarring. Other more rare risks include infection, bleeding, and persistent pain.

I am told I need surgery. What next?