Rotator Cuff Tears

A common but treatable problem. If surgery is needed, it's arthroscopic with tiny incisions, no scars, and quick return to activity!
We have a 2 live videos of surgery here.

What are they?
The rotator cuff is a group of 4 muscles with tendons that attach the ball joint (humeral head) of the shoulder to the socket (glenoid of the shoulder blade). When they are pinched between the 2 main bones of the shoulder over a long period of time, they can have a hole worn in them, or just tear.

What causes them?
It is this pinching of the tendons between the bones over time or from overuse, that can result in rotator cuff tears. They can also be caused by sudden injuries that jerk the arm up, out or back.

Do they get worse, or cause damage?
Many people live with rotator cuff tears and have no symptoms. Others have severe pain and weakness with small or even partial-thickness tears. Tears do often progress and get bigger if not treated. Rotator cuff arthropathy is a condition that is basically bad shoulder arthritis that can result from neglected rotator cuff tears. Also, the muscles of the rotator cuff can turn into fat or scar after long-standing rotator cuff tears. These are good reasons to have your doctor evaluate and treat shoulder pain or weakness earlier rather than later.

What is the treatment?
Therapy is effective for this condition. Medicines like Motrin, Aleve or prescription anti-inflammatories may help with the symptoms. An injection given in the shoulder can often resolve this problem. Sometimes 2 or even 3 injections might be necessary. Surgery is very effective, as the pinching bones can be smoothed out and the rotator cuff repaired.

Do I need surgery?
Many patients do not need surgery for this, as they often respond well to therapy, medicines and injections. We have a 2 live videos of surgery here.

Tell me about the surgery
If injections, therapy, and medicines don't work, surgery may be recommended. It is an outpatient surgery, meaning you go home the same day as surgery. It takes about an hour, and is done through 2 to 4 very short incisions which are barely visible after they are healed.

After the surgeon incises the skin, the tear is repaired with an arthroscope, which is a small pencil-sized camera that can look into the joint and be used with other small instruments. There are no long scars. A high percentage of patients have resolution of the problem after surgery, and there are very few complications, making this a very safe and effective procedure. You will wear a sling for 3-6 weeks, and do therapy for 2-3 months to regain motion, strength, coordination, and endurance of the whole arm.

Is surgery safe?
Your surgeon will discuss the risks with you, but it is a very safe and effective procedure.

How long would I be out of my job after surgery?
You will be sent home with a sling on your arm. You should move your fingers the day of surgery, as this helps prevent and reduce swelling and stiffness. The stitches are removed in the office in about than a week. Jobs with clerical or light-type of work can be resumed within a week, heavier duty-type jobs such as manual labor can be done after 4-6 weeks in most cases. It really depends on the job type more than anything, as heavy overhead lifting can take up to 6 months to get back to.