Rotator Cuff Repair

What is a rotator cuff repair?

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.

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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.

How do I get ready for a rotator cuff repair?

  • Your healthcare provider will explain the procedure to you and offer you the chance to ask any questions that you might have about the procedure.
  • You will be asked to sign a consent form that gives your permission to do the procedure. Read the form carefully and ask questions if something is not clear.
  • In addition to a complete medical history, your healthcare provider may perform a complete physical exam to make sure that you are in good health before undergoing the procedure. You may undergo blood tests or other diagnostic tests.
  • Tell your healthcare provider if you are sensitive to or are allergic to any medicines, latex, tape, and anesthetic agents (local and general).
  • Tell your healthcare provider of all medicines (prescribed and over-the-counter) and herbal supplements that you are taking.
  • Tell your healthcare provider if you have a history of bleeding disorders or if you are taking any anticoagulant (blood-thinning) medicines, aspirin, or other medicines that affect blood clotting. It may be necessary for you to stop these medicines before the procedure.
  • If you are pregnant or suspect that you are pregnant, you should notify your healthcare provider.
  • You will be asked to fast for 8 hours before the procedure, generally after midnight.
  • You may receive a sedative before the procedure to help you relax. Because the sedative may make you drowsy, you will need to arrange for someone to drive you home.
  • You may meet with a physical therapist before your surgery to discuss rehabilitation.
  • Based on your medical condition, your healthcare provider may request other specific preparation.

What happens during a rotator cuff repair?

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:

  1. You will be asked to remove clothing and will be given a gown to wear.
  2. An intravenous (IV) line may be started in your arm or hand.
  3. You will be positioned on the operating table.
  4. The anesthesiologist will continuously monitor your heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and blood oxygen level during the surgery.
  5. The skin over your surgical site will be cleansed with an antiseptic solution.
  6. Your healthcare provider will make an incision in the shoulder area. The incision will vary depending on the type of surgery (open surgery, arthroscopy, or a combination of both) that may be done.
  7. The arthroscope (if used) will be inserted through the incision.
  8. Other incisions may be made to introduce other small grasping, probing, or cutting tools.
  9. Injured tendons and muscles will be repaired or replaced with a graft tendon from another part of the body.
  10. Bone spurs (if present) will be removed.
  11. The incision(s) will be closed with stitches or surgical staples.
  12. A sterile bandage or dressing will be applied.

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