Rotator cuff repair surgery is done to fix a tear in the rotator cuff. Your doctor may also clean the space between the rotator cuff tendons and the shoulder blade. This is called subacromial smoothing.
Your doctor will do either arthroscopic or open surgery.
With arthroscopic surgery, your doctor uses a lighted tube with a tiny camera. This tube is called an arthroscope. Your doctor puts it and other surgical tools through small cuts (incisions) in your shoulder. Most people go home the same day they have this surgery.
With open surgery, your doctor will make a 5 to 10 centimetre incision in your shoulder. Most people go home the same day they have this surgery.
In both surgeries, the scars usually fade with time. You will wear a sling for a few weeks.
You will need physical rehabilitation (rehab). At first, you will get help with the exercises. Later, your doctor or physiotherapist will give you exercises to do on your own. Rehab will last several months. It will take 3 to 4 months before you will be able to use your arm normally. It will take 4 to 6 months before you will be able to throw objects or play sports.
After surgery and rehab, you will probably have less pain and more strength in your shoulder. You should be able to lift and rotate your arm better. Some people have to avoid lifting heavy objects.
If you have a desk job, you will probably be able to return to work or your normal routine in 1 to 2 weeks. If you push, pull, or lift at work, you may be away from work for 3 to 4 months or longer. If you work at a job that involves heavy manual labour, lifting your arms above your head, or using heavy tools, you may have to think about finding other work.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.
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Current as of: September 20, 2018
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Kenneth J. Koval MD - Orthopedic Surgery, Orthopedic Trauma
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