Rotator Cuff Repair
by Editorial Staff And Contributors
The rotator cuff is a group of 4 muscles in the shoulder and upper arm. The muscles help to move the arm at the shoulder and to stabilize the joint. The muscles are connected to the shoulder bone by tendons, which are strong, flexible cords. The muscles or tendons may become damaged from long term overuse or from injury.
Reasons for Procedure TOP
Your doctor may recommend this procedure for:
Possible Complications TOP
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
What to Expect TOP
Prior to Procedure
Your doctor may do the following:
Before this procedure, you will need to:
You may need to stop taking some medications up to 1 week before the procedure.
Do not eat or drink anything after midnight the day before your procedure, unless told otherwise by your doctor.
General anesthesia is typically used. You will be asleep during the procedure.
Description of Procedure TOP
There are 2 methods used to perform a rotator cuff repair:
A cut will be made in the skin over the shoulder. The torn muscle or tendon will be repaired and reattached and/or anchored with stitches. The incision will then be closed with stitches or staples.
A few small incisions will be made in the shoulder. A narrow tool called an arthroscope will be inserted through the incision. The scope has a tiny camera to allow the doctor to see inside. Other small instruments will be inserted through the other incisions. These tools will be used to repair the tendon or muscle.
After either procedure, the incisions will be bandaged. Your arm will be placed in a sling or brace to immobilize the joint.
How Long Will It Take? TOP
About 1½ to 2 hours
How Much Will It Hurt? TOP
Anesthesia prevents pain during the procedure. You may have some discomfort immediately after. Ask your doctor about medication to help with the pain.
Average Hospital Stay TOP
You may be able to go home the same day. Some may need to stay in the hospital overnight.
Post-procedure Care TOP
At the Care Center
Right after the procedure, you may be given medication, such as:
When you return home, take these steps:
The rotator cuff will take several months to heal. It may take some time before you can raise your arm above your shoulder. It may be up to one year before you can hold your arm above your head and do work with reasonable strength. An aggressive and consistent physical therapy and exercise program is the key to a faster recovery.
Call Your Doctor TOP
Contact your doctor if your recovery is not progressing as expected or you develop complications such as:
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
American College of Sports Medicine
FamilyDoctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Canadian Physiotherapy Association
Public Health Agency of Canada
Exercise and shoulder pain. American College of Sports Medicine website. Available at: https://www.acsm.org/docs/current-comments/exandshoulderpaintemp.pdf. Accessed February 12, 2016.
Rotator cuff repair. John Hopkins Medicine website. Available at:
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Accessed February 12, 2016.
Rotator cuff tear. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114498/Rotator-cuff-tear. Updated July 20, 2016. Accessed October 10, 2016.
Rotator cuff tears: surgical treatment options. American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons website. Available at:
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Updated May 2011. Accessed February 12, 2016.
6/2/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance. http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114498/Rotator-cuff-tear: Mills E, Eyawo O, et al. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2011;124(2):144-154.e8.
Last reviewed March 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Warren A. Bodine, DO, CAQSM
Last Updated: 2/26/2014