The rotator cuff consists of muscles and tendons that hold the shoulder in place. It’s one of the most important parts of the shoulder. It allows you to lift your arm and reach up. An injury to the rotator cuff, such as a tear, may happen suddenly when falling on an outstretched hand or develop over time due to repetitive activities. Rotator cuff degeneration and tears may also be caused by aging.
If your rotator cuff is injured, you may need to repair it surgically. This may include shaving off bone spurs that are pinching the shoulder, or repairing torn tendons or muscles in the shoulder. Surgical techniques that may be used to repair a tear of the rotator cuff include arthroscopy, open surgery, or a combination of both. The goal of rotator cuff repair surgery is to help restore the function and flexibility of the shoulder and to relieve the pain that can’t be controlled by other treatments.
Shoulder injuries are common. Athletes and construction workers often have rotator cuff injuries due to repetitive movement and overuse of the shoulder. The rotator cuff may be damaged from a fall or other injury to the shoulder. Damage may also happen slowly over time. The damage may be due to:
Recurrent pain, limited ability to move the arm, and muscle weakness are the most common symptoms.
If medical treatments are not satisfactory, rotator cuff repair surgery may be an effective treatment. Medical treatments for rotator cuff injury may include the following:
Rotator cuff surgery may be performed using an arthroscope. An arthroscope is a small, tube-shaped instrument that is inserted into a joint. It consists of a system of lenses, a small video camera, and a light for viewing. The camera is connected to a monitoring system that allows the healthcare provider to view a joint through a very small incision. The arthroscope is often used along with other tools that are inserted through another incision.
An open repair may be performed if the rotator cuff injury can’t be repaired using arthroscopy. In some cases, a tendon graft or joint replacement may be needed.
There may be other reasons for your healthcare provider to recommend rotator cuff repair.
As with any surgical procedure, complications can happen. Some possible complications may include:
The joint pain and weakness may not be relieved by the surgery. You may not recover full range of motion in the shoulder joint.
Nerves or blood vessels in the area of surgery may be injured. This results in weakness or numbness.
There may be other risks depending on your specific medical condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider before the procedure.
Rotator cuff repair may be done on an outpatient basis or as part of your stay in a hospital. Procedures may vary depending on your condition and your healthcare provider’s practices.
Rotator cuff repair may be done while you are asleep under general anesthesia, or while you are awake under local or regional anesthesia. If regional anesthesia is used, you will have no feeling in your shoulder. The type of anesthesia will depend on the specific procedure being done. Your healthcare provider will discuss this with you in advance.
Generally, rotator cuff repair surgery follows this process:
After surgery you will be taken to the recovery room for observation. Your recovery process will vary depending on the type of anesthesia that is given and the type of surgery that’s done. The circulation and sensation of your arm will be monitored. Once your blood pressure, pulse, and breathing are stable and you are alert, you will be taken to your hospital room or discharged to your home.
You may be given an immobilizer or sling before you go home.
Once you’re home, it’s important to keep the surgical area clean and dry. Your healthcare provider will give you specific bathing instructions. The stitches or surgical staples will be removed during a follow-up office visit.
Take a pain reliever for soreness as recommended by your healthcare provider. Aspirin or certain other pain medicines may increase the chance of bleeding. Be sure to take only recommended medicines.
To help reduce swelling, you may be asked to apply an ice bag to the shoulder several times per day for the first few days. You should keep the sling or immobilizer on as directed by your healthcare provider.
Your healthcare provider will arrange for an exercise rehabilitation program to help you regain muscle strength, flexibility, and function of your shoulder.
Notify your healthcare provider to report any of the following:
You may resume your normal diet unless your healthcare provider advises you differently.
You should not drive until your healthcare provider tells you to. Other activity restrictions may apply. Full recovery from the surgery may take several months.
Your healthcare provider may give you additional or alternate instructions after the procedure, depending on your particular situation.
Before you agree to the test or the procedure make sure you know:
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