The rotator cuff is a group of tendons and muscles in the shoulder, connecting the upper arm (humerus) to the shoulder blade (scapula).
These tendons provide stability to the shoulder and the muscles allow the shoulder to rotate.
Rotator cuff surgery is a procedure performed on torn tendons and symptoms of rotator cuff pain typically include:
- Pain and swelling in the front of the shoulder and side of the arm
- Pain triggered by raising or lowering the arm
- A clicking sound when raising the arm
- Pain that causes you to wake from sleep
- Pain when reaching behind the back
When is surgery appropriate?
As a first course of action, anti-inflammatory medication, steroid injections, and physical therapy may all help to treat symptoms of a rotator cuff tear.
Even though most tears cannot heal on their own, good function can often be achieved without surgery.
If, however, you are active and use your arm for overhead work or sports, then surgery is most often recommended because many tears will not heal without surgery.
Surgery is generally recommended if you have persistent pain or weakness in your shoulder that does not improve after several months of non-surgical treatments.
Surgery is also generally recommended when the tear is large (more than 3cm) and often recommended when the tear is caused by a recent, acute injury.
What happens during surgery?
During a rotator cuff repair, the tendon is reattached to the tuberosity bone of the humerus from which it has been torn.
This is done using suture anchors in minimally invasive, arthroscopic fashion.
Bone spurs can also be removed in a similar fashion to prevent further tendon injury.
Being a completely arthroscopic surgery, rotator cuff repair surgery is now a more minor procedure than it used to be and is often done as a day surgical procedure.
The recovery however, still often requires a sling for 6 weeks to protect the repair until it heals.