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Rotator Cuff Surgery

Rotator Cuff Surgery: Overview, Preparation, Procedure, Recovery, Risks, and Aftercare


To repair a torn rotator cuff tendon in the shoulder, rotator cuff surgery is a common orthopedic procedure. As a group of muscles and tendons surrounding the shoulder joint, the rotator cuff provides stability and facilitates movement. Symptoms of rotator cuff injuries, degeneration, and limited shoulder function often require surgery to restore function and alleviate pain.


Patients typically undergo the following preparation steps before rotator cuff surgery:

  • A shoulder surgeon specializing in shoulder surgery meets with patients to discuss their symptoms, medical history, and treatment options. During the consultation, the surgeon may perform a physical examination, order imaging studies (e.g., MRI, X-ray), and determine the extent of the rotator cuff injury.

  • Patients may undergo a comprehensive medical evaluation to assess their overall health and identify any underlying medical conditions that may impact surgical outcomes.

  • Patients receive preoperative instructions from their surgeons, including fasting before surgery, discontinuing certain medications (e.g., blood thinners), and arranging transportation to and from the surgical facility.


Rotator cuff surgery typically involves the following steps:

  • According to the patient's health status and surgical preferences, rotator cuff surgery may be performed under general anesthesia or regional anesthesia.

  • The surgical approach depends on the size and location of the tear in the rotator cuff tendon. Small incisions in the shoulder are made to access the tendon.

  • To repair a torn tendon, the surgeon reattaches it to the bone using sutures or anchors. In some cases, the surgeon may trim or remove damaged tissue to facilitate healing.

  • A sterile dressing is applied to the surgical site after the incisions are closed with sutures.


Following rotator cuff surgery, patients can expect to recover as follows:

  • During the immediate postoperative period, patients may experience pain, swelling, and stiffness in the shoulder. Pain medications, ice therapy, and wearing a sling may be recommended to alleviate discomfort.

  • To maximize recovery outcomes, patients typically undergo a structured physical therapy program following surgery to regain strength, range of motion, and function in the shoulder. Physical therapy may begin shortly after surgery and continue for several months.

  • During the early stages of recovery, patients should avoid heavy lifting and strenuous arm movements and slowly resume daily activities. It will take several months for patients to fully recover from rotator cuff surgery, so they should follow their surgeon's advice regarding activity restrictions and rehabilitation exercises.


Despite the fact that rotator cuff surgery is generally safe and effective, there are inherent risks and potential complications, such as:

  • Surgical site infections are rare but can occur, requiring prompt antibiotic treatment.

  • After surgery, some patients may experience stiffness or limited range of motion in the shoulder, requiring additional physical therapy or intervention.

  • Tendon re-tear: Despite successful repair, there is a risk of re-injury or re-tear of the rotator cuff tendon, particularly with overuse or inadequate rehabilitation.


Rotator cuff surgery patients are advised to follow these aftercare instructions:

  • In the initial healing phase, patients may need to wear a sling or shoulder immobilizer to protect the surgical repair.

  • In order to maximize shoulder function and prevent complications, patients should attend all scheduled physical therapy sessions and perform home exercises according to their therapist's instructions.

  • Regular follow-up visits with the surgeon are necessary to monitor healing, assess shoulder function, and address any concerns or complications that may arise during recovery.

A patient can make informed decisions, participate actively in their recovery process, and achieve optimal outcomes in restoring shoulder function and alleviating pain by understanding the overview, preparation, procedure, recovery, risks, and aftercare involved in rotator cuff surgery.

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