Rotator cuff surgery is generally performed to repair a partial tear or reattach the tendon to the head of the humerus, the bone that makes up the upper arm. Your doctor may recommend rotator cuff repair if nonsurgical therapies fail to relieve your pain, or if your symptoms are impacting your activity level or ability to do your job. An acute injury or significant weakness also makes you a good candidate for rotator cuff surgery.
There are different options for rotator cuff repair and the technique chosen will depend on factors such as the size of the tear, your overall health and more. This surgery will be performed arthroscopically which only requires small incisions as the area is viewed and treated using a small instrument called an arthroscope.
Rotator cuff surgery offers patients the ability to regain full range of motion and strength in their shoulder. Most patients experience a complete reduction in pain and stiffness, allowing them to get back to their daily activities.
Of the different types of rotator cuff surgery, arthroscopic rotator cuff repair is the least invasive, with less scarring and pain, as well as a faster recovery.
Arthroscopic rotator cuff surgery is an outpatient procedure. In most cases, it is performed using general anesthesia so that you are asleep and don’t feel anything during the procedure.
A small incision is made over your shoulder joint and an instrument called an arthroscope is inserted into the incision. An arthroscope is a thin, flexible tube with a camera and light that allows the surgeon to see and treat the shoulder while viewing it on a monitor in the operating room. Other small incisions are made so the surgeon can insert instruments to repair the damage. If bone spurs are found during surgery, they will be removed from the clavicle. This is called a distal clavicle excision or Mumford procedure.
Once the rotator cuff repair is complete, each incision is closed using one or two stitches and covered with a bandage.
Rotator cuff repair is used to treat symptoms such as persistent shoulder pain that wasn’t helped by nonsurgical therapies and weakness that interferes with your daily activities.
It can be used to repair a large or complete rotator cuff tear that was caused by injury or chronic rotator cuff issues. Bone spurs that can cause pain and damage in the shoulder can also be removed during surgery.
Preparation depends on which type of rotator cuff surgery you are having done. In most cases, you will need to do the following in preparation for rotator cuff repair:
- Avoid certain medications and supplements. You will need to speak to your surgeon about any medications that you are taking, including prescription and over-the-counter medications, and any dietary and natural supplements and remedies. Some medications and supplements can increase the risk of bleeding or clotting.
- Consult with your physician. Be sure to inform your physician of any medication you might be taking or illnesses you may have, even if it is just a simple cold.
- Do not eat or drink 6 to 12 hours prior to surgery. Your physician will inform you of the exact time span you will need to fast before your surgery.
- Arrange a ride home from the airport. During your visit to our surgical center, we take care of your transportation to our base location, including your transport to and from the airport. Our goal is to minimize the amount of things you have to think about during your stay with us, making this process as easy for you as possible. It is advised that you arrange a ride from the airport when you return home, as you should not drive for several days after your procedure.
You will be given preparation instructions ahead of your rotator cuff surgery by our skilled physicians and surgeons. Be sure to do as you’re advised to avoid having your surgery postponed to a later date.
You will be monitored in a recovery room for a few hours following rotator cuff surgery before being released. Post-operative instructions will be provided for you to follow at home.
You will be wearing a sling or shoulder immobilizer when you leave the ARO surgical center to prevent your shoulder from moving. The type of surgery you had will dictate how long you need to wear it.
Depending on the side of the tear and some other factors, recovery can take anywhere from four months to a year. You can expect some pain following the rotator cuff repair, but this can be managed using pain medication.
You will have a follow-up appointment with your primary care physician to see how you are healing and have your stitches removed. Rehabilitation using passive exercise, followed by active exercise, will also be needed to help you recover. ARO will work with your primary care physician and physical therapy facility to get you setup with a post-op care program. Physical therapy will usually begin very soon after surgery. After approximately 12 weeks, your physical therapist will get you started on a strengthening program. Full recovery can take several months or even a year, though most patients report an improvement in functional strength and range of motion within four to six months after rotator cuff surgery.