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Rotator Cuff Repair

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Learn more about rotator cuff repairs at King Edward VII’s Hospital

Why would I need rotator cuff repair surgery?

The rotator cuff is formed of four important muscles and tendons within the shoulder that help to attach the upper arm to the shoulder blade. It helps to keep the shoulder joint stable yet allows free movement of the shoulder and arm, particularly when lifting the arm upwards above the head.

Regular use of the rotator cuff, such as during certain sports, or an injury to the shoulder can cause damage to the rotator cuff. Normal wear and tear to the muscles and tendons can also cause similar damage, especially in older people.

Rotator cuff repair surgery helps to treat damage to the rotator cuff.

What symptoms does rotator cuff repair surgery address?

Rotator cuff repair surgery is effective relieving the pain of a rotator cuff injury and restoring freedom of movement to the shoulder and arm.

When should you speak to your specialist about rotator cuff repair surgery?

If you’re experiencing shoulder and arm pain that isn’t being relieved by painkillers, speak to your specialist. They may perform some tests and scans and will discuss treatment options with you, including non-surgical treatments. However your surgeon may advise you to undertake rotator cuff repair surgery, and will explain the benefits and risks to you in detail during your consultation.

How is rotator cuff repair surgery performed?

Arthroscopic rotator cuff repair surgery is performed under a general anaesthetic meaning that you’ll be asleep throughout, and may also be performed with a local anaesthetic injected into the nerves in your neck, called an interscalene nerve block

Your surgeon will make small incisions in the area around your shoulder, and will insert a long, thin medical telescope inside your shoulder. This will allow them to view your shoulder on a nearby screen. They will then repair the tear or damage to your rotator cuff with medical devices. You will also need a subacromial decompression, a standard part of the operation, where bone is shaved and soft tissues removed to increase the space above the tendon, to stop it rubbing and re-tearing in the future.

Your wounds will then be stitched and dressed. Most patients can return home the same day as this kind of surgery. You will awake from surgery wearing a sling.

What is the recovery like for rotator cuff repair surgery?

Your recovery from rotator cuff repair surgery will depend on multiple factors, including your age, fitness level and the nature of your procedure.

Your nursing team will give you advice from your surgeon on how best to aid your recovery and your physiotherapy team will provide you with some exercises to do at home. After around two weeks, your stiches can be removed.

It may take up to a year to fully recover your full range of movement but carrying out your exercises regularly will help significantly.

Are there any risks/complications associated with rotator cuff repair surgery?

As with any medical procedure, it’s possible for risks or complications to arise. Speaking with your specialist or surgeon beforehand will help you avoid any adverse reactions.

Rotator cuff repair surgery has a relatively low risk of serious complications, but the following risks and complications can occur in a small number of cases:

  • Bruising
  • Bleeding within the shoulder
  • Difficulty moving the shoulder and arm
  • Pain and stiffness in the arm and hand
  • Severe pain in the shoulder
  • Blood clots
  • Injury to the nerves
  • Tendon re-tear
  • General anaesthetic and interscalene block (which will be discussed with you by your anaesthetist)
  • Infection

How can I prepare for rotator cuff repair surgery?

Prior to rotator cuff repair surgery, your surgeon will discuss with you how best to prepare, as each patient is different with differing needs.

Common preparations for rotator cuff repair surgery include:

  • Routine blood tests, x rays or scans as requested by your surgeon
  • Taking steps to stop smoking if you smoke
  • Losing weight if you’re overweight
  • Remaining active and doing regular exercise

Are there alternatives for rotator cuff repair surgery?

Painkillers, physiotherapy and steroid injections may also relieve the pain and discomfort of a rotator cuff injury or damage.

Call 020 7467 4344 or fill in your details below to make an enquiry
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