by EBSCO Medical Review Board
Subacromial Decompression


Shoulder decompression removes tissue and part of the acromion bone of the shoulder blade.

Shoulder Anatomy
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Reasons for Procedure

This procedure is done to treat shoulder impingement. This is when the rotator cuff rubs against the acromion bone. This surgery make space within the shoulder joint. This can ease pain and improve range of motion.

Possible Complications

Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:

  • Excess bleeding
  • Problems from anesthesia, such as wheezing or sore throat
  • Infection
  • Blood clots
  • Shoulder stiffness
  • Injury to surrounding structures like the nerve, blood vessels, and shoulder joint

Things that may raise the risk of problems are:

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

The surgical team may meet with you to talk about:

  • Anesthesia options
  • Any allergies you may have
  • Current medicines, herbs, and supplements that you take and whether you need to stop taking them before surgery
  • Fasting before surgery, such as avoiding food or drink after midnight the night before
  • Whether you need a ride to and from surgery
  • Tests that will need to be done before surgery, such as images of the shoulder


The doctor may give:

Description of the Procedure

Small incisions will be made in the shoulder. A special tool called an arthroscope will be inserted. An arthroscope is a flexible tube with a light at the end and a camera attached. This will allow the doctor to view the inside of the shoulder on a screen. Tiny instruments will be inserted into the other incisions. The joint will be examined. The underside of the acromial bone may also be shaved to help increase the subacromial space. Damaged or inflamed soft tissue will be removed. Other repairs may be done. The arthroscope will be removed. The incisions will be closed with stitches. A bandage will be placed over the area.

How Long Will It Take?

About 1 hour

Will It Hurt?

Pain and swelling are common in the first few weeks. Medicine and home care can help.

Average Hospital Stay

Most people leave the same day. If you have any problems, you may need to stay longer.

Post-procedure Care

At the Care Center

Right after the procedure, the staff may:

  • Give you pain medicine
  • Raise the shoulder to ease swelling
  • Apply ice to the area
  • Put your arm in a sling to support the shoulder

Physical therapy will be started soon after the procedure.

During your stay, staff will take steps to lower your chance of infection, such as:

  • Washing their hands
  • Wearing gloves or masks
  • Keeping your incisions covered

You can also lower your chance of infection by:

  • Washing your hands often and reminding visitors and staff to do the same
  • Reminding staff to wear gloves or masks
  • Not letting others touch your incisions
At Home

It may take 1 month to heal. Physical activity will be limited during recovery. You may need to ask for help with daily activities and delay return to work.

Call Your Doctor

Call the doctor if you are not getting better or you have:

  • Signs of infection, such as fever and chills
  • Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or discharge from the incisions
  • Numbness or tingling in the arm, shoulder, or hand

If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.


Ortho Info— American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons 

Sports Med—American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine 


Canadian Orthopaedic Association 

Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation 


Arthroscopic shoulder decompression. Cleveland Clinic website. Available at: Accessed September 29, 2020.

Escamilla RF, Hooks TR, et al. Optimal management of shoulder impingement syndrome. Open Access J Sports Med. 2014;5:13-24.

Management of rotator cuff impingement. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed September 29, 2020.

Shoulder impingement/rotator cuff tendinitis. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: Accessed September 29, 2020.

Revision Information