Suprascapular Nerve Release
Suprascapular nerve release may be used to relieve shoulder pain. Dr James McLean performs this procedure with an arthroscopic approach, minimising damage to the surrounding tissue.
What is suprascapular nerve release?
Suprascapular nerve release is a surgical procedure performed to relieve suprascapular nerve entrapment. It works by removing the pressure on the nerve, reducing or eliminating pain and discomfort.
What is suprascapular nerve entrapment?
The suprascapular nerve is a major nerve which runs from the brachial plexus into the shoulder. It may be impinged (trapped) by cysts, tumours, or structural changes to the scapular bone, resulting in irritation. It tends to feel like a severe, deep aching pain which comes from the top of the shoulder and may radiate into the back, neck, and arm.
It is most often seen in people who make repetitive overhead motions, such as athletes and tradies. While the condition is considered rare, its clinical frequency is gradually increasing.
When is suprascapular nerve release performed?
Suprascapular nerve release is performed to relieve pressure on a trapped suprascapular nerve. This may be indicated by pain and weakness throughout the shoulder, neck, arm, and upper back which has not improved with conservative management techniques.
There are several points at which the suprascapular nerve can be impinged, the most common being the at the suprascapular notch (at the top of the scapula). Before undergoing arthroscopic suprascapular nerve release, you may be referred for further imaging to confirm the location and exact diagnosis.
What does the arthroscopic suprascapular nerve release procedure involve?
Arthroscopic suprascapular nerve release is performed under a local anaesthetic.
A small incision is made in the top of the shoulder, and a tiny camera (arthroscope) is inserted to allow for viewing of the area. Dr James McLean uses this to confirm the suprascapular impingement and the surgical approach needed to rectify it.
Other small incisions are then made in the front of the shoulder, allowing access for the small tools used. These are used to move or remove remove cysts, tumours, damaged tissue, bone spurs, or other structures causing impingement.
After the procedure, the tools are retracted and the wounds are closed with sutures or surgical tape.
What risks are involved?
Like any surgical procedure, arthroscopic suprascapular nerve release carries certain risks. Although the arthroscopic approach can reduce some by minimising disruption to the surrounding tissue, other are still applicable. These may include:
- Damage to the suprascapular nerve
- Damage to the surrounding tissues of the shoulder
- Blood clots
- Reactions to anaesthesia
- Infection of the wound site post-procedure
- Ongoing pain and/or weakness
- Failure to heal completely
Complications in the healing process can lead to severe outcomes. If you notice any concerning symptoms after your procedure, it’s important to discuss them with your orthopaedic surgeon as soon as possible.
Recovery following arthroscopic suprascapular nerve release
Immediately after the surgery, your arm will be placed in a sling for your own comfort.
However, you will be allowed to gently move your arm as soon after surgery as pain permits. You will be prescribed medication to help relieve pain, and may be advised to sleep with a pillow under the affected shoulder.
A follow-up appointment with Dr James McLean will be scheduled about 3 weeks after your procedure. This appointment will include a physical examination to check your healing progress, assessment for signs of complication, and advice on returning to work and normal activities.
Your surgeon will develop an exercise rehabilitation program to help improve your shoulder strength and range of motion. Generally speaking, you can resume light activities within 6 weeks of the procedure.