Rotator cuff repair

Surgery to repair the deep muscles and tendons (the rotator cuff) in your shoulder joint.

About rotator cuff repair

The three bones of your shoulder joint are stabilised and mobilised by a system of muscles and tendons called the rotator cuff.

Your rotator cuff can be torn as a result of:

  • an injury, such as over-throwing or an impact to tour shoulder
  • wear and tear due to repetitive actions –particularly in sport or work
  • damaged bone and cartilage pinching the tendons (often caused by degenerative bone conditions like arthritis)

Rotator cuff injury can lead to pain, swelling, weakness and difficulty moving your arm upwards.

If your symptoms are not resolved with non-surgical treatments such as rest, physiotherapy and steroid injections, your doctor may recommend surgery.

Rotator cuff surgery involves reattaching torn tendons to the shoulder bones.

Different types of procedure

How rotator cuff repair is carried out

This operation is usually carried out under general anaesthetic (you will be asleep during the operation).

Your surgeon will cut away any damaged fibres of your tendon(s). They will mobilise the torn tendon so it easily attaches to the relevant section of bone. Small anchors are placed in the bone and the torn tendon is attached to these anchors using stitches.

Your surgeon may also cut off bony outgrowths, and smooth any rough edges on the bones or cartilage, to enable free movement and prevent them catching on the soft tissues.

After rotator cuff repair

You should be able to go home on the day of your operation or as soon as you have recovered from the general anaesthetic.

You may need to take over-the counter painkillers for a few days after surgery.

You will be one-handed for four to six weeks, so you may need help with everyday activities such as washing and dressing.

If you have had a major repair, you will need to wear a sling for six weeks.

You will be given physiotherapy exercises to do every day to increase mobility and help strengthen your shoulder and upper arm.

Most people can return to a desk job after six weeks, but this may be sooner if you can wear a sling at work. If you have a physical job, it may be up to 12 weeks until you can return to work.

After about 12 weeks, you should be able to return to normal activities and sports.

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Disclaimer: This information is published by Cromwell Hospital and is based on reputable sources of medical evidence and experience from over 30 years of treating patients. It has been peer reviewed by Cromwell Hospital doctors. The content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional. If you have any feedback on the content of this patient information document please email or telephone 020 7460 5901.