Tuesday, June 6, 2017

How a Torn Rotator Cuff is Repaired



Illustration 1- An orthopedic surgeon may recommend surgery to fix a symptomatic rotator cuff tear that doesn’t respond to non-surgical treatment options

The rotator cuff consists of four shoulder tendons that join to form a cuff around the shoulder joint. The cuff’s important job is to stabilize, lift, and rotate the shoulder. When the cuff is partially or completely torn (usually due to an activity related injury and/or aging), it may need to be surgically repaired. The three procedures orthopedic surgeons use to repair torn rotator cuffs are:

1.    An open repair. An incision is used to detach the deltoid (the largest shoulder muscle) so the torn cuff can be visualized and repaired.

2.    An arthroscopic repair. The use of tiny cameras and instruments allow the surgeon to visualize and repair the cuff—incisions are small and the deltoid is not detached.

3.    A mini-open repair. The surgeon uses arthroscopic equipment to visualize the shoulder joint and fix any abnormalities, such as torn cartilage and bone spurs. Once the joint has been restored, a relatively small (3-5 cm) incision is used to repair the cuff.

The Goal of Rotator Cuff Repair Surgery

Regardless of the procedure, the goal of surgery is always the same: restore shoulder anatomy and function by reattaching the cuff. This goal is accomplished through the use of special suturing and stitching techniques and advanced orthopedic devices known as suture anchors. Once the rotator cuff has been reattached, it’s able to heal and regain strength.


Illustration 2- The cuff is reattached

Rotator Cuff Repair Surgery Specifics

Rotator cuff repairs are (generally) a 1-2-hour outpatient procedure. After two weeks of recovery, physical therapy—one of the key elements of a successful recovery—is usually started.

Patients who adhere to the advice and treatment plan prescribed by their orthopedic surgeon and physical therapist can expect a full recovery in 6 or more months.

Contacting an Orthopedic Surgeon


If you or someone you know has injured their shoulder, please don’t hesitate to contact our offices in St. Peters or O'Fallon, MO to arrange an appointment with one of our specialists. A physical examination and medical imaging studies will be used to accurately diagnose your injury and come up with a treatment plan. If surgery is necessary, every detail will be discussed and question and concern addressed—expect a full recovery when in the hands of our professional team.

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