Rotator Cuff Repair

Rotator cuff repair is surgery to repair a torn tendon in the shoulder. The procedure can be done with a large (open) incision or with shoulder arthroscopy, which uses small button hole sized incisions. Dr. CL Steyn, celebrated orthopaedic surgeon in Cape Town specializes in shoulder injuries and repair, book a consultation today!


The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that form a cuff over the shoulder joint. These muscles and tendons hold the arm in its joint and help the shoulder joint to move. The tendons can be torn from overuse or injury.

You will likely receive general anesthesia before this surgery. This means you will be asleep and unable to feel pain. Or, you will have regional anesthesia. Your arm and shoulder area will be numbed so that you do not feel any pain. If you receive regional anesthesia, you will also be given medicine to make you very sleepy during the operation.

Three common techniques are used to repair a rotator cuff tear: During open repair, a surgical incision is made and a large muscle (the deltoid) is gently moved out the way to do the surgery. Open repair is done for large or more complex tears.

During arthroscopy, the arthroscope is inserted through small incision. The scope is connected to a video monitor. This allows the surgeon to view the inside of the shoulder. One to three additional small incisions are made to allow other instruments to be inserted.

During mini-open repair, any damaged tissue or bone spurs are removed or repaired using an arthroscope. Then during the open part of the surgery, a 2to 3inch incision is made to repair the rotator cuff.

To repair the rotator cuff the tendons are reattached to the bone. Small rivets (called suture anchors) are often used to help attach the tendon to the bone. The suture anchors can be made of metal or material that dissolves over time, and do not need to be removed. Sutures (stitches) are attached to the anchors, which tie the tendon back to the bone. At the end of the surgery, the incisions are closed, and a dressing is applied. If arthroscopy was performed, most surgeons take pictures of the procedure from the video monitor to show you what they found and the repairs that were made.

Why the Procedure Is Performed

Reasons rotator cuff repair may be done include:

  • You have shoulder pain when you rest or at night, and it has not improved with exercises over 6 to 12 months.
  • You are active and use your shoulder for sports or work.
  • You have weakness and are unable to do everyday activities.

Surgery is a good choice when:

  • You have a large or a complete rotator cuff tear.
  • A tear was caused by a recent injury.
  • The tendons of the rotator cuff were not already torn from chronic rotator cuff problems.

A partial tear may not require surgery. Instead, rest and exercise are used to heal the shoulder. This approach is often best for people who do not place a lot of demand on their shoulder. Pain can be expected to improve. The tear may become larger over time.


Risks of anesthesia and surgery in general are:

  • Allergic reactions to medications
  • Problems breathing
  • Bleeding, blood clots, infection

Risks rotator cuff surgery are:

  • Failure of surgery to relieve symptoms
  • Injury to a tendon, blood vessel or nerve


Before the Procedure

Tell your health care provider what medicines you are taking. This includes medicines, supplements, or herbs you bought without a prescription.

During the 2 weeks before your surgery: You may be asked to stop taking medicines that make it harder for your blood to clot. These include aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Naprosyn, Aleve), and other medicines. Ask your provider which medicines you should still take on the day of your surgery. If you have diabetes, heart disease, or other medical conditions, your surgeon will ask you to see your doctor who treats you for these conditions. Tell your provider if you have been drinking a lot of alcohol, more than 1 or 2 drinks a day. If you smoke, try to stop. Ask your provider for help. Smoking can slow wound and bone healing. Tell your surgeon about any cold, flu, fever, herpes breakout, or other illness you may have before your surgery.

On the day of surgery: Follow instructions on when to stop eating and drinking. Take the medicines your surgeon told you to take with a small sip of water. Follow instructions on when to arrive at the hospital. Be sure to arrive on time.

After the Procedure

Follow any discharge and selfcare instructions you are given. You will be wearing a sling when you leave the hospital. Some patients also wear a shoulder immobilizer. This keeps your shoulder from moving. How long you wear the sling or immobilizer will depend on the type of surgery you had. Recovery can take 4 to 6 months, depending on the size of the tear and other factors. You may have to wear a sling for 4 to 6 weeks after surgery. Pain is usually managed with medicines. Physical therapy can help you regain the motion and strength of your shoulder. The length of therapy will depend on the repair that was done. Follow instructions for any shoulder exercises you are told to do.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff is usually successful in relieving pain in the shoulder. The procedure may not always return strength to the shoulder. Rotator cuff repair can require a long recovery period, especially if the tear was large. When you can return to work or play sports depends on the surgery that was done. Expect several months to resume your regular activities. Some rotator cuff tears may not fully heal. Stiffness, weakness, and chronic pain may still be present.

These poorer results are more likely when the following are present:

  • The rotator cuff was already torn or weak before the injury.
  • Larger tears.
  • After surgery exercise and instructions are not followed.
  • Older patients (over age 65).
  • Smoking.
rotator cuff repair


A rotator cuff injury is a common injury that occurs in the shoulder region. It usually happens when the arm is forcefully pulled or twisted. The injury can be caused by a fall, car accident, or other physical trauma.

The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles and their tendons which stabilize the head of the humerus bone in the shoulder joint. When these muscles and tendons are injured, they can’t do their job properly and this leads to pain and difficulty with movement.

The rotator cuff injuries typically happen due to overuse as well as sudden forceful movements that put pressure on the rotator cuff tendons. Injuries may also occur because of repetitive activities such as painting ceilings or playing tennis for hours on end without breaks.

A rotator cuff injury is usually diagnosed with a physical examination and an imaging test.

The physical examination may include:

  • Palpation of the shoulder joint,
  • Observation of the range of motion,
  • Testing for weakness or paralysis by pushing against the arm to see if it drops down, and
  • Tests for tenderness around the shoulder joint.

The imaging can be used to identify whether there is a tear in the rotator cuff muscles or if there is any early arthritis. A rotator cuff injury can be caused by: overuse, trauma (such as a fall), and degenerative changes (such as arthritis).

The risks associated with rotator cuff surgery can be quite serious. The most common risks that we see are infections and bleeding. The risk of infection is increased by the use of a catheter and the risk of bleeding is increased by the use of a needle.

There are also potential risks associated with anesthesia, such as pneumonia, low blood pressure, and kidney failure.

Passive range of motion exercises are not considered to be as beneficial as active range of motion exercises.

Passive range of motion exercises are not considered to be as beneficial as active range of motion exercises. This is because passive range of motion exercises do not require any movement on the part of the person performing them.

The risks associated with passive range of motion exercises include:

Passive range of motion exercises can be very useful when recovering from an acute injury, but there are some risks associated with these exercises. For starters, this type of exercise does not work the muscles in the same way as active range of motion exercises. This means that these exercises do not actually strengthen the muscle and may cause more harm than good with any future pain or discomfort. Additionally, passive motion can often increase

The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that help to stabilize the shoulder joint. A rotator cuff injury can cause pain, weakness, and loss of function in the arm.

A home exercise plan should incorporate these 3 types of exercises:

  1. Strengthening exercises for the muscles that stabilize the shoulder joint.
  2. Stretching exercises for the muscles that stabilize the shoulder joint.
  3. Strengthening exercises for other muscle groups in the arm to help compensate for any weakness due to a rotator cuff injury.

A rotator cuff injury is a very common injury and can happen to anyone. This article will cover the treatments available for this type of injury.

Treatment options depend on the severity of the injury. The most common treatments are:

  1. Resting and icing
  2. NSAIDs
  3. Pain medication
  4. Physical therapy
  5. Surgery


For more on treatments available for Rotator cuff injuries visit: