Rotator Cuff Surgery

Rotator cuff repair is surgery to repair a torn tendon in the shoulder. The procedure can be done with a large (open) incision or with shoulder arthroscopy, which uses smaller incisions.

A rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that form a cuff over the shoulder joint. These muscles and tendons hold the arm in its joint and help the shoulder joint to move. The tendons can be torn from overuse or injury.

You will likely receive general anaesthesia before this surgery. This means you will be asleep and unable to feel pain. Or, you will have regional anaesthesia. Your arm and shoulder area will be numbed so that you do not feel any pain. If you receive regional anaesthesia, you will also be given medicine to make you very sleepy during the operation.

Three common techniques are used to repair a rotator cuff tear:

  • During open repair, a surgical incision is made and a large muscle (the deltoid) is gently moved out the way to do the surgery. Open repair is done for large or more complex tears.
  • During arthroscopy, the arthroscope is inserted through small incision. The scope is connected to a video monitor. This allows the surgeon to view the inside of the shoulder. One to three additional small incisions is made to allow other instruments to be inserted.
  • During mini-open repair, any damaged tissue or bone spurs are removed or repaired using an arthroscope. Then during the open part of the surgery, a 2- to 3-inch (5 to 7.5 centimetres) incision is made to repair the rotator cuff.
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What Causes Rotator Cuff Problems

Your rotator cuff is a group of tendons and muscles in your shoulder. It helps you lift and rotate your arm. It also helps keep your shoulder joint in place. But sometimes, the rotator cuff tendons tear or get pinched by the bones around them.

An injury, like falling on your arm, can cause this to happen. But wear and tear over time can take its toll on your shoulder, too. The pain can be severe.

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What About Surgery?

If you’re not getting any relief with these steps, surgery may be the next option for you.

You may need surgery if:

  • Your shoulder hasn’t improved after 6 to 12 months
  • You’ve lost a lot of strength in your shoulder and find it painful to move
  • You have a large tear (over 1 inch) in your rotator cuff tendon
  • You’re active and rely on your shoulder strength for your job or to play sports

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