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What happens during rotator cuff surgery?

There are two surgical approaches employed to repair a rotator cuff tear. The first, open repair surgery, involves a large incision, while the second, arthroscopy, requires one or several small incisions through which the arthroscope will be inserted. With the aid of this medical device, surgeons are able to repair or remove any damaged tissue or bone spurs.

The rotator cuff includes the muscles and tendons which surround the shoulder joint. These muscles and tendons connect the upper arm bone to the shoulder, hold the shoulder in place and allow you to lift and rotate your arms and shoulders. The rotator cuff also has a protective function.

The tendons in this region can tear or suddenly detach from the bone following an injury. A gradual detachment may occur due to aging, repetitive activities (sports or working in constructions) or bone spurs.

The tear can be either partial or complete. Partial tears can improve with medication and physical therapy, while complete tears are more severe and often require surgery. Surgical interventions can be performed either arthroscopically or traditionally (open surgery). The patient will receive local or general anesthesia prior to both treatment approaches.

Arthroscopic Rotator Cuff Repair

An arthroscope equipped with a camera and various surgical instruments is inserted into the shoulder through small incisions. The surgeon will use sutures to reattach the tendon to the bone. Small rivet-like anchors with sutures will then be placed into the bone. The sutures will go through the tendon, which will subsequently be reconnected to the bone. Additional anchors may be used to properly hold the tendon in place. The surgeon then securely ties the sutures and applies a dressing on the incisions. Patients do not generally have to stay in the hospital overnight following this procedure.

Open Rotator Cuff Tendon Repair

This intervention is preferred for the repair of larger tendon tears. The surgeon makes a large incision in order to gain access to the torn tendon. It will be reattached to the bone using the previously described method, with sutures and anchors. After this surgery, the patient needs to wear a shoulder immobilizer for approximately 6 weeks. Regular physical therapy will also be required in order to gradually regain the normal range of motion and restore the strength of the shoulder.

Disclaimer: We do not assume responsibility for the use of the provided information or its interpretation. Our efforts are towards providing current and reliable information; however these should not be considered, or used as a substitute for diagnosis or treatment.

Source: https://www.cedars-sinai.edu/Education/Medical-Library/