Rotator Cuff Tear Surgery

Arthroscopic Surgery: A minimally invasive technique that involves making small incisions around the shoulder through which an arthroscope (a small camera) and surgical instruments are inserted to repair the tendon. This method generally leads to less postoperative pain and a faster recovery. Open surgery is rarely required in cases of very large tears especially when a tendon graft is required to supplement the repair.

Expected Surgery Outcome

The main objective of rotator cuff tear surgery is to alleviate pain and restore shoulder strength and function. More than 90% of patients experience substantial relief from pain and a significant improvement in shoulder function following appropriate postoperative rehabilitation.

Potential surgery complications and risks

Complications, while rare, can include infection, excessive bleeding, and unintentional damage to nearby nerves or blood vessels. There can also be complications from anaesthesia, and some patients may develop a frozen shoulder (stiffness and loss of movement in the shoulder).

Risks

  • Infection: There is always a risk of infection with any surgery, but precautions are taken to minimise this.
  • Nerve or Blood Vessel Damage: Although rare, during surgery there is a risk of injuring nearby nerves or blood vessels.
  • Stiffness: Post-surgical stiffness can occur, affecting the range of motion in the shoulder.
  • Incomplete Relief or Recurrence of Symptoms: Surgery may not entirely relieve symptoms, and in some cases symptoms can return if the inflammation around the tendon persists.
  • Re-rupture: The tendon can tear again after surgery. This is very uncommon but if it does occur, it is usually sue to an injury or fall before the tear has had a chance to heal. The tendon tissue and bone quality can also affect the strength of the repair.
  • Further procedures: Further operations are rarely required in case of a failure of the repair or onset of pain from a different site within the shoulder.

Recovery after surgery

Recovery from rotator cuff surgery varies depending on the severity of the tear and the specific surgical procedure performed. Physiotherapy plays a critical role in the recovery process, often starting a few days after surgery with gentle passive exercises to maintain shoulder mobility. As healing progresses, active exercises and strength training are gradually introduced. The recovery timeline can range from a few months to a year or more for complete recovery. Adhering to the prescribed rehabilitation protocol is crucial for optimal recovery and long-term shoulder health.