Rotator Cuff Repair

If you are pregnant or suspect that you are pregnant, you should notify your healthcare provider.

You will be asked to fast for 8 hours before the procedure, generally after midnight.

You may receive a sedative before the procedure to help you relax. Because the sedative may make you drowsy, you will need to arrange for someone to drive you home.

You may meet with a physical therapist before your surgery to discuss rehabilitation.

Based on your medical condition, your healthcare provider may request other specific preparation.

What happens during a rotator cuff repair?

Rotator cuff repair may be done on an outpatient basis or as part of your stay in a hospital. Procedures may vary depending on your condition and your healthcare provider’s practices.

Rotator cuff repair may be done while you are asleep under general anesthesia, or while you are awake under local or regional anesthesia. If regional anesthesia is used, you will have no feeling in your shoulder. The type of anesthesia will depend on the specific procedure being done. Your healthcare provider will discuss this with you in advance.

Generally, rotator cuff repair surgery follows this process:

  • You will be asked to remove clothing and will be given a gown to wear.
  • An intravenous (IV) line may be started in your arm or hand.
  • You will be positioned on the operating table.
  • The anesthesiologist will continuously monitor your heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and blood oxygen level during the surgery.
  • The skin over your surgical site will be cleansed with an antiseptic solution.
  • Your healthcare provider will make an incision in the shoulder area. The incision will vary depending on the type of surgery (open surgery, arthroscopy, or a combination of both) that may be done.
  • The arthroscope (if used) will be inserted through the incision.
  • Other incisions may be made to introduce other small grasping, probing, or cutting tools.
  • Injured tendons and muscles will be repaired or replaced with a graft tendon from another part of the body.
  • Bone spurs (if present) will be removed.
  • The incision(s) will be closed with stitches or surgical staples.
  • A sterile bandage or dressing will be applied.
What happens after a rotator cuff repair?

After surgery you will be taken to the recovery room for observation. Your recovery process will vary depending on the type of anesthesia that is given and the type of surgery that’s done. The circulation and sensation of your arm will be monitored. Once your blood pressure, pulse, and breathing are stable and you are alert, you will be taken to your hospital room or discharged to your home.

You may be given an immobilizer or sling before you go home.

Once you’re home, it’s important to keep the surgical area clean and dry. Your healthcare provider will give you specific bathing instructions. The stitches or surgical staples will be removed during a follow-up office visit.

Take a pain reliever for soreness as recommended by your healthcare provider. Aspirin or certain other pain medicines may increase the chance of bleeding. Be sure to take only recommended medicines.

To help reduce swelling, you may be asked to apply an ice bag to the shoulder several times per day for the first few days. You should keep the sling or immobilizer on as directed by your healthcare provider.

Your healthcare provider will arrange for an exercise rehabilitation program to help you regain muscle strength, flexibility, and function of your shoulder.

Notify your healthcare provider to report any of the following:
  • Fever or chills
  • Redness, swelling, bleeding, or other drainage from the incision site
  • Increased pain around the incision site
  • Numbness or tingling in the affected arm or hand
  • You may resume your normal diet unless your healthcare provider advises you differently.
  • You should not drive until your healthcare provider tells you to. Other activity restrictions may apply. Full recovery from the surgery may take several months.
  • Your healthcare provider may give you additional or alternate instructions after the procedure, depending on your particular situation.
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