Rotator Cuff Tear Repair

What you should know

Rotator cuff repair is surgery to fix a tear in one or more of your rotator cuff tendons. A tendon is a cord of tough tissue that connects your muscles to your bones. The rotator cuff is made up of a group of muscles and tendons that hold the shoulder joint in place.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

Risks

  • You may get an infection from this surgery. This surgery may cause muscles in your shoulder to become weak, which can decrease your ability to use your shoulder. Your tendon may not heal, and your arm and shoulder may be weak and painful. If a graft was used for your repair, you may have swelling and get an infection around the graft. After surgery, tissue around the joint can swell and become stiff. This can cause new pain and problems with moving your arm. The anchor used to fix your tear may press on the tendon and cause pain. Your tendon may tear after surgery, and you may need to have surgery again.

  • If you do not have this surgery, your tear might get larger, and your shoulder muscles may get smaller. These problems make it harder to repair the tear at a later time. Torn tendons cannot hold the bones of your joint in place, so the bones may press on the tendons. This can damage your rotator cuff, and be painful. Your pain may increase, and your shoulder may swell up and change shape. You may not be able to do activities such as lifting your arm over your head.

Getting Ready

Before your surgery:

  • Ask your caregiver if you need to stop using aspirin or any other prescribed or over-the-counter medicine before your procedure or surgery.

  • You may need an x-ray, ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI to show the size of your rotator cuff tear. These tests will help your caregiver plan your surgery. Ask your caregiver for more information about these and other tests you may need. Write down the time and location of each test.

  • Write down the correct date, time, and location of your surgery.

  • You or a close family member will be asked to sign a legal document called a consent form. It gives caregivers permission to do the procedure or surgery. It also explains the problems that may happen, and your choices. Make sure all your questions are answered before you sign this form.

The night before your surgery:

  • Ask caregivers about directions for eating and drinking.

The day of your surgery:

  • Ask your caregiver before you take any medicine on the day of your surgery. Bring a list of all the medicines you take, or your pill bottles, with you to the hospital. Caregivers will check that your medicines will not interact poorly with the medicine you need for surgery.

  • Anesthesia: This medicine is given to make you comfortable. You may not feel discomfort, pressure, or pain. An adult will need to drive you home and should stay with you for 24 hours. Ask your caregiver if you can drive or use machinery within 24 hours. Also ask if and when you can drink alcohol or use over-the-counter medicine. You may not want to make important decisions until 24 hours have passed.

Treatment

What will happen:

  • Your caregiver will make an incision in your shoulder to see the tendons that need to be repaired. He may remove damaged tissue in your shoulder. Bone that is pressing on the rotator cuff tendons may also be removed. If the bursa (small sack of fluid around the joint) is swollen, your caregiver may remove it.

  • If the rotator cuff tear is small, your caregiver may sew it back together. If the tear is big, your caregiver may have to attach the tendon to the bone in your shoulder. This can be done with stitches and a bone anchor to hold the tendon to the bone. A graft (a piece of another muscle or tissue) may be used to attach and repair the tendon. Your caregiver may need to reshape your shoulder bone to help it stay in place. Caregivers will use stitches to close the incision, and then a bandage will be secured over it.

After your surgery:

  • Do not get out of bed until your caregiver says it is okay. Later, you will be taken to your hospital room, or you may be able to go home. A bandage may cover your stitches or staples. This bandage keeps the area clean and dry to help prevent infection.

  • Your arm may be in an abduction immobilizer sling. This sling stops your arm from moving. The pillow attached to the sling holds your arm away from your body. This position decreases pressure on the surgery area, and helps blood flow to the area to help it heal.

Contact a caregiver if

  • You have a fever.

  • The pain in your shoulder or arm is getting worse.

Seek Care Immediately if

  • Your arm suddenly feels numb or begins to tingle.

© 2013 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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