Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Rotator Cuff Repair Surgery      

  Rotator Cuff Injury – An Overview

The muscle tissues and tendons that support and connect the upper arm bone (humerus) to the collarbone and the shoulder blade together form the rotator cuff.

The rotator cuff gives strength and allows movement in the shoulder joint.


What is Rotator Cuff injury?

Rotator Cuff is composed of four main muscle groups around the shoulder that develop into supporting tendons towards the shoulder joint. A partial or complete tear of these tendons results in a Rotator Cuff injury.


What are the causes of Rotator Cuff injury?

Rotator cuff injuries can occur due to fraying of the tendons through excess usage. Sudden tearing can also happen when lifting very heavy objects.

The main reasons for rotator cuff injuries are either injury or degeneration.

Acute Tear – This type of injury is often caused by an injury to the shoulder blade or collarbone. Often times, lifting a heavy object without preparation will also result in an acute tear in the rotator cuff.

Degenerative Tear – This type of tear occurs when the shoulder is regularly used to perform repetitive actions or movements. This repetitive movement will cause the tendons of the rotator cuff to become frayed over time, resulting in a tear.

Advancing age is also seen to be a cause of rotator cuff injuries. As we age the blood supply to the tendons also decreases. This restricts the tendons’ ability to regenerate and heal itself naturally. With time the tendons get worn out and tear.


What are the symptoms of Rotator Cuff injury?

Generally, the common symptoms of a rotator cuff injury include:

  •          Restricted arm movement in certain directions
  •          Pain is felt even when arm is at rest
  •          Sleeping on the injured shoulder is painful
  •          Arm feels weak when stretching or rotating the shoulder
  •          Friction can be felt in the shoulder joint when arm is rotated in particular motions

Often, a rotator cuff injury may be caused by impact on the shoulder joint or a fall. The injured shoulder will feel weak and movement of arm becomes painful.


What are the treatment and surgery for Rotator Cuff injury?

The doctor will take into consideration certain factors (age, activity level, extent of tear, etc.) to suggest the best type of treatment for your rotator cuff injury.


Non-Surgical Treatments

These types of treatments may decrease pain and retain some movement in the arm. The types of non-surgical methods for treatment of rotator cuff injury are:

  •          Rest – The doctor will advise you to rest the shoulder by avoiding any movement with it. The doctor usually suggests putting the arm in a sling till torn tendons are healed.
  •          Ice pack – Ice packs over the injured shoulder can help decrease pain and inflammation.
  •          Physical Therapy – The doctor will advise a course of physical therapy to regain strength and movement in your arm.

Surgical Treatments

Surgical type of treatment has better chances to improve strength and movement in cases of severe rotator cuff injury.

The doctor might suggest one of these two types of surgeries:

  •          Arthroscopic surgery – This type of surgery is less invasive and can be completed in less time than an open surgery. In arthroscopy a small incision is made to insert the arthroscope which helps the doctor to determine the location and extent of the tear. The doctor then performs reconstructive surgery to reattach the torn tendons.
  •          Open surgery – This type of surgery is advised by doctors in cases where there is complete tear in one or more tendons. This is done under general anesthesia. In this the doctor will remove bone spurs that are abrasive against the tendons making them worn out. This type of surgery is required when there is a need for reconstructive procedure such as tendon transfer. This procedure is performed when multiple tendons are torn.

After the surgery the arm is put in a sling and its movement prohibited letting the damaged tendons to heal naturally.

The doctor will also advise a course of physical therapy for a few weeks depending on the extent of movement and strength of the shoulder after the surgery.