A shoulder rotator cuff repair is a surgery to repair torn muscles at the shoulder joint.
The shoulder joint is a ball and socket connection supported by a group of muscles and tendons that facilitate a wide range of 3-dimensional movements.
Acute injury, overuse and strain can cause tears in the rotator cuff muscles. Age-related wear and tear can also cause tendon degeneration.
How it works
Rotator cuff tears can be either partial or complete. A muscle that is frayed or damaged is considered a partial rotator cuff tear. A complete tear is when the damage extends all the way to the tendon or pulls the tendon off the bone.
Although rotator cuff tears can sometimes go unnoticed, especially if there is no shoulder pain, it is quite common to experience symptoms such as:
Clicking or popping sound with movement
Difficulty reaching behind the back
Pain and tenderness during shoulder movement
Progressive weakness of the shoulder
Reduced range of movement
When do you need rotator cuff repair surgery?
Minor injuries to the rotator cuff can be managed non-surgically with:
Anti-inflammatory medication to reduce swelling and pain
Hot or cold packs
Rotator cuff exercises to restore muscle strength and increase motion range
You will need to undergo shoulder rotator cuff repair if you have serious or complete rotator cuff tears or injuries which do not heal completely. If left untreated, these symptoms could lead to frozen shoulder and arthritis.
Your doctor will suggest surgery when there is significant loss of shoulder function or persistent symptoms that are unresponsive to non-surgical treatment.
What are the risks and complications of rotator cuff repair surgery?
Shoulder rotator cuff repair is a safe procedure, with low risk of complications. However, like any other surgery, it carries a small risk.
Common surgical complications include:
Allergic reactions to anaesthesia and other medication
Bleeding, blood clots and infection
Injury to tendons, blood vessels of nerves
Permanent joint stiffness
Recurrent tears of the rotator cuff
How to prepare for a rotator cuff repair surgery
Talk to your surgeon before going for surgery about:
Any health condition or allergies you have. This should also include all medications you are currently taking.
Any unprescribed medication and health supplements. Avoid taking them unless they have been cleared by your doctor.
Arranging for assistance after the surgery.
Optimising your general health. Do stop smoking at least a month before surgery.
Suitable attire for the procedure. You may want to wear loose fitting clothes that are easy to put on and fasten.
What to expect for a rotator cuff repair surgery
Surgical treatment of rotator cuff tears can be performed as:
Open repair surgery. An open repair is usually recommended for larger and more complex tears that requires general anaesthesia.
Arthroscopic shoulder surgery. Shoulder arthroscopy is less invasive and can be done in a day surgery or outpatient setting.
During the procedure
For partial tears, the muscles may only require debridement or trimming.
For complete tears, the surgeon will reattach the tendon to the head of the humerus using suture anchors. These anchors are then attached with sutures to tie or attach the tendon back to the bone. Suture anchors do not need to be removed after the tendon has healed.
Care and recovery for rotator cuff repair surgery
Your shoulder, and even your arm or hand, will be sore and swollen after surgery.
You will need to wear a shoulder immobiliser. The duration for wearing the immobiliser will depend on the type of surgery.
A sling will be required after that for about 6 weeks to support the arm and restrict shoulder movement. During this period, movement of the affected shoulder is limited.
You should avoid activities such as:
You should continue to:
Use your fingers and hands
Keep the incision dry and clean
Keep an eye out for redness, discharge, tingling or numbness in the arm, hand or fingers
Manage pain with medication
Rest well for better and faster recovery
Why choose Mount Elizabeth Hospitals?
Mount Elizabeth Hospitals have a reputable 40-year track record in orthopaedic health in Singapore. We provide a wide range of diagnostic and surgical orthopaedic procedures.
Our multi-disciplinary team of orthopaedic surgeons, consultants and therapists work together to deliver good function and mobility for every patient.
Our patients undergoing rotator cuff repair surgery benefit from minimally invasive surgical techniques which reduce trauma and scarring but improve success rates.