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.
Rotator Cuff Tear
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Your doctor may recommend this procedure for: A rotator cuff injury that does not respond to rest and physical therapy treatment
in the tendon
Chronic pain and weakness from a partial tear in the tendon
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like: InfectionExcess bleedingBlood clotsReaction to anesthesiaWeakness or numbness in shoulder jointDetachment of the shoulder muscleThe operation does not improve function
Factors that may increase the risk of complications include: SmokingAlcohol abuseObesityDiabetes or other chronic disease
Your doctor may do the following: Physical examBlood tests
to see the internal structure of the shoulder
Before this procedure, you will need to: Arrange for help at home while you recoverTalk to your doctor about any medications, herbs, or supplements you are takingTalk to your doctor about any allergies you haveAsk your doctor about assisted devices you will needArrange for someone to drive you home after the procedure
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.
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.
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 overnight.
Right after the procedure, you may be given medication, such as: Pain medicationAntibiotics to prevent infectionMedication that prevents blood clots
When you return home, take these steps: Do not use the arm until instructed. Wear the sling or brace as directed.Follow instructions for physical therapy. Therapy is essential to regain shoulder strength and range of motion.
Be sure to follow your doctor's
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.
Contact your doctor if your recovery is not progressing as expected or you develop complications such as: Signs of infection, including fever and chillsRedness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or discharge at the incision sitePain that cannot be controlled with the medications you were givenNausea or vomitingCough, shortness of breath, or chest painThe stitches or staples come apart
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
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:
http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/test_procedures/orthopaedic/rotator_cuff_repair_92,P07682/. Accessed February 12, 2016.
Rotator cuff tears: surgical treatment options. American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons website. Available at:
http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00406. Updated May 2011. Accessed February 12, 2016.
Last reviewed February 2016 by Warren A. Bodine, DO, CAQSM
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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