Rotator Cuff Repair
by Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Rotator cuff repair is surgery to treat damage to the muscles and tendons that support the shoulder.
Reasons for Procedure
This surgery is done on people who are not helped by other methods. It is also done to treat a complete tear or when pain and weakness limit activities.
Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:
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:
The doctor may give general anesthesia. You will be asleep.
Description of Procedure
This can be done using open surgery or arthroscopic surgery.
A cut will be made in the skin over the shoulder. The torn muscle or tendon will be repaired and reattached. It may be held down with stitches. The incision will be closed with stitches or staples. A bandage will be placed on it.
A few small incisions will be made in the shoulder. A narrow tool called an arthroscope will be placed through the incision. The scope has a tiny camera to let the doctor view the area. Other small instruments will be inserted through the other incisions. These tools will be used to repair the tendon or muscle. The incision will be closed with stitches or staples. A bandage will be placed on it.
How Long Will It Take?
One and one-half to 2 hours
Will It Hurt?
Pain and swelling are common in the first few weeks. Medicine and home care can manage pain.
Average Hospital Stay
You may be able to go home the same day. If you have problems, you may need to stay longer.
At the Care Center
Right after the procedure, the staff may:
During your stay, staff will take steps to lower your chance of infection, such as:
You can also lower your chance of infection by:
It will take several months to fully heal. Physical activity will be limited during recovery. You may need to ask for help with daily activities and delay your return to work for a few weeks. It will take about 6 weeks before you can begin light activities.
Call Your Doctor
Call your doctor if you are not getting better or you have:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American College of Sports Medicine
FamilyDoctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Canadian Physiotherapy Association
Public Health Agency of Canada
American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS). Management of Rotator Cuff Injuries Clinical Practice Guideline. AAOS 2019 Mar 11.
Rotator cuff tear. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/rotator-cuff-tear. Accessed July 15, 2020.
Rotator cuff tears: surgical treatment options. American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons website. Available at:
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Accessed July 15, 2020.
Last reviewed March 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Warren A. Bodine, DO, CAQSM
Last Updated: 3/30/2021