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The rotator cuff is formed of four tendons and the adjacent muscles that attach your arm to the top of your shoulder blade. Overuse or injury can cause tears in the tendons.

Sometimes impingement or small tears get better on their own with the help of anti-inflammatory painkillers and a change in the activity that may have caused them. A steroid and local anaesthetic injection into your shoulder can sometime reduce pain. However if you have a large tear or your symptoms continue to get worse an operation may be your only option.

What happens during rotator cuff repair surgery?

Shoulder surgery is usually performed under general anaesthetic. The procedure can be done arthroscopically (key hole surgery) using several very small incisions or (for larger tears) one open incision. Your surgeon will remove loose fragments from the area. They will ensure there is no impingement which might include shaving the bone or removing any bone spurs. After stitching the tear they will reattach the tendons to your upper arm. Be sure and discuss what procedure will be used with your consultant.

After your rotator cuff repair

Immediately after your surgery you will be taken to the recovery area. Staff will monitor your blood pressure, heart rate and breathing. If you are in any pain be sure and tell the recovery room staff. When you are stable a nurse will take you to your room. Your arm will be in a sling.

Back in your room

Once back in your room, our nursing team will continue to check on you to make sure you are recovering well. After you have recovered from any effects of the anaesthetic, you can have something to eat and drink. Be sure and tell us if you are in any pain.

Our nurses will help you get out of bed and begin to move around. A physiotherapist will teach you exercises to help you regain strength and flexibility.

Going home after rotator cuff repair

If you have arthroscopic surgery you may be able to go home the same day of the procedure. Patients who have open surgery may need to spend one night in hospital. You will be given medication to control any post surgery pain. Any stitches or staples will be removed 10 - 14 days after your operation.

You should continue to do the passive exercises as instructed by the physiotherapist until your followup appointment with your surgeon. Six to eight weeks after your surgery you may be given more active exercises and stretches. You should not engage in any strenuous exercise or activity without checking with your surgeon or physiotherapist. 

Be sure and discuss your return to work with your surgeon. 

Most people make a good recovery and return to normal activities following rotator cuff repair. As with any surgery there can be complications:

Specific complications of rotator cuff repair:
  • Continued stiffness and restricted movement
  • Damage to the tendons or muscles
  • Tendons tear again fail to heal
  • Nerve damage.

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