Arthroscopic Rotator Cuff Repair

The rotator cuff muscles surround the shoulder joint, and they enable humans to lift and rotate their arm. It is a normal part of the ageing process for these muscles to become thinner over time, and this makes them vulnerable to rupture. Rotator cuff tears usually occur at the junction of the muscle and tendon, and in the event of a tear, the muscles are unable to repair themselves. If you fail to seek advice/ treatment, the tear may progress, resulting in gradual loss of motion and power. It is important to seek professional advice as soon as possible, as this will result in better outcome.

The signs of a rotator cuff tear may include 

  • pain when lifting/using the arm, 
  • discomfort during the evening,
  • restricted motion and power. 

Arthroscopic Rotator Cuff Repair – Non-Operative Management Vs Surgery 

Small or partial tears can respond favourably to non-operative management, but you may experience a mild to moderate function deficit.  Moderate to large tears will likely require surgery. 

Surgery is often performed arthroscopically, and most patients achieve good results. Following surgery, many patients notice improved comfort, shoulder strength and function. It is important to note that this type of surgery often requires 12 months of post- operative rehabilitation.

Surgery Process

Surgery is performed under general anaesthetic, and you may also be given the option of a “block” injection to reduce post-operative pain.

The rotator cuff will be inspected, and the tear will be repaired. When you awake from surgery, your arm will be in a sling. The sling is worn for 6 weeks in most instances.

Post-Op Rehabilitation

For most patients, you will be asked to wear a sling day and night for 6 weeks. Following this, your post- operative physio usually will start, this being determined by your surgeon’s post- operative protocol. Often from week 7 post op, you will be asked to start a passive exercise program aiming to regain shoulder movement. 

In most instances, passive exercise should continue at home for a period of 6 weeks, ideally undertaken 2 to 3 times daily. Following this, i.e., from week 12 postop, you will usually be asked to start a light strengthening program. Lift and repetition restrictions usually will still apply.

Usually, you will be asked to avoid lifting, repetition or overhead activity for up to 12 months. Your surgeon will determine when full function is allowed based on your progress. In general, you should anticipate at least 6 months of physiotherapy/activity restriction. Every shoulder is different with regard to the surgical findings, the operation undertaken and the recovery after surgery. At Sydney Shoulder Clinic, we have been providing this type of surgery/ physiotherapy for over 30 years. If you have any query, please contact Tim Neville, Physiotherapist, on 97442201 for obligation free advice.