The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles in the shoulder and upper arm. The muscles help to move the arm at the shoulder and also help 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.
Rotator Cuff Tear
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Your doctor may recommend this procedure for:
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
The risk of complications and slow healing may be increased.
Your doctor may do the following:
Before this procedure, you will need to:
You may need to stop taking some medications up to one week before the procedure. Medications that may need to be stopped may include:
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.
There are two methods used to perform a rotator cuff repair:
The doctor will make a cut in the skin over the shoulder. The torn muscle will be repaired or tendon 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. The doctor will use these tools 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.
About 1½ to 2 hours
Anesthesia prevents pain during the procedure. You may have some discomfort immediately after. Ask your doctor about medication to help with the pain.
You may be able to go home the same day. Some may need to stay in the hospital for one day.
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.
After arriving home, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor
American College of Sports Medicine
Public Health Agency of Canada
Canadian Physiotherapy Association
Excercise and shoulder pain. American College of Sports Medicine website. Available at: http://www.acsm.or... . Accessed May 3, 2013.
Rotator cuff repair. John Hopkins Medicine website. Available at: http://www.hopkins... . Accessed May 3, 2013.
Rotator cuff surgery discharge instructions. John Hopkins Medicine website. Available at: http://www.hopkins... . Published May 7, 2010. Accessed May 3, 2013.
Rotator cuff tear. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what . Updated January 17, 2013. Accessed February 26, 2014.
Rotator cuff tears: surgical treatment options. American Academy of Orothopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00406 . Updated May 2011. Accessed May 3, 2013.
6/2/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/ : Mills E, Eyawo O, Lockhart I, Kelly S, Wu P, Ebbert JO. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med . 2011;124(2):144-154.e8.
Last reviewed February 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 2/26/2014