Rotator Cuff Surgery
The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons surrounding your shoulder joint. They help you to lift and rotate your arm and they also keep your shoulder joint in place. When you suffer a rotator cuff injury due to an accident like falling on your arm, it might cause a dull ache in the shoulder and also cause a lot of pain. Though some rotator cuff problems are easily treatable at home, you might require surgery, is your problem is persistent and severe.
Why it is done
Even though most people with rotator cuff problems are able to manage their symptoms and return to their daily activities with the help of physical therapy exercises, some people are unable to get any relief with the help of medications of therapy.
Surgery is considered if:
- Your shoulder hasn’t shown any sign of improvement after 6 to 12 months.
- There is a tear in your rotator cuff tendon
- You lost significant strength in your shoulder and moving is painful for you
- You are active physically and you need to rely on your shoulder strength for your job or to take part in sports activities
Before the Procedure
You will need to inform your health care providers if you are taking any kind of medication, supplements or herbs.
For the 2 weeks prior before your surgery:
- You might be asked to stop taking blood thinners temporarily.
- Ask your doctor which medicines you should continue to take.
- If you are having diabetes, heart disease or any such medical condition, your surgeon will want to see the doctor treating you for such conditions.
- If you smoke, try to quit for at least the days before the surgery. Smoking can slow your wound and bones from healing.
- If you have been binge-drinking, you need to let your health providers know about it.
- If you develop any illness before your surgery, such as a cold or flu, you need to inform your surgeon. In such cases, they might need to postpone the procedure.
Make sure you follow the instructions regarding your arrival time and if your doctor tells you to take any medications. Your surgery can last from 90 minutes to 3 hours. During the procedure, your belongings will need to be stored in the pre-operative area. If you have any friends or family with you, they will need to wait for you in the waiting room.
Types of Surgeries
There are different kinds of rotator cuff surgeries.
- Arthroscopic tendon repair- This procedure involves the surgeons inserting a tiny camera known as an arthroscope along with tools through small incisions so that they are able to reattach the torn tendon to the bone.
- Open tendon repair- In some situations, an open tendon repair may seem like a better option. In such a surgery, your surgeon will work through a larger incision so that they can reattach the damaged tendon to the bone.
- Tendon transfer- If the torn tendon is too damaged and reattaching it to the arm bone is not possible, surgeons might decide to use a nearby tendon as a replacement.
- Shoulder replacement- Shoulder replacement surgery is required in cases of massive rotator cuff injuries. In order to improve the artificial joint’s stability, a procedure known as reverse shoulder arthroplasty will install the ball part of the artificial joint into the shoulder blade and the socket part into the arm bone.
Regardless of the type of surgery you had, full recovery usually takes time. However, recovery from arthroscopic surgery is usually faster than open tendon repair. You may need to be in a sling for around six weeks, as this will protect your shoulder, as well as give your rotator cuff time to heal. You won’t be able to drive a car during this time.
Most people don’t get pain relief instantly after their surgery. It usually takes some months for your shoulder to feel better. Until then, you will be advised by your doctor regarding over-the-counter pain relievers.
Opioid painkillers can also be an option, though they come with a risk of addiction. However, if your doctor is prescribing them, you must take them as directed. As soon as your pain goes away, it is best if you stop using them.