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. This
usually involves reattaching the tendon to the head of the humerus. 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 do 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, tell your healthcare provider.
  • You will be asked to fast for 8 hours before the procedure, generally after midnight.
  • You may get 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 IV (intravenous) 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 cleaned with an antiseptic solution.
  6. Your healthcare provider will make a
    cut (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 put
    through the incision.
  8. Other incisions may be made to use
    other small grasping, probing, or cutting tools.
  9. The provider will fix or replace
    injured tendons and muscles with a graft tendon from another part of the body.
  10. Bone spurs will be removed if they
    are present.
  11. The incision will be closed with
    stitches or surgical staples.
  12. A sterile bandage or dressing will be applied.


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