Injuries to the rotator cuff, which is made of muscles and tendons holding the shoulder in place, are usually caused by gradual wear and tear of the tendon over time. Repetitive overhead activity or frequent heavy lifting can also irritate or damage the tendon.
People with a damaged rotator cuff, regardless of the cause, can undergo arthroscopic surgery if their injury is severe and fails to respond to non-invasive treatments.
Other good candidates are individuals whose symptoms have been present for 6 to 12 months, those with a large tear, people with significant weakness and loss of function in their shoulder, and those whose tear was the result of a recent, acute injury.
The purpose of rotator cuff repair surgery is to restore the function and flexibility of the shoulder and relieve pain that failed to be controlled by less invasive treatments. During arthroscopy, the orthopedic surgeon inserts a small camera, known as the arthroscope, into the shoulder joint. The camera permanently displays pictures on a monitor, and the surgeon uses the images to guide tiny surgical instruments through the other small incisions in the shoulder.
To repair the rotator cuff, the surgeon will perform the following actions:
At the end of the procedure, the incisions are closed, and a sterile dressing is applied over them. If arthroscopy was performed, the surgeon might take pictures of the surgery from the monitor to later show you what they found and the repairs they made.
It will take 6 to 8 weeks for the tendon to heal to the bone. Complete recovery depends on the size of the tear. For small tears, full recovery time is roughly 4 months, while for large tears, it is approximately 6 months. The first step of recovery is managing postoperative pain. Although the arm will be immobilized in a sling for 4 to 6 weeks after the surgery, the patient can return to most of their usual activities within a few days of the surgery. They will be able to drive and walk, but they will be doing these things with only one arm. During the recovery period, they will work with a physical therapist to regain motion and strengthen the shoulder joint.