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Capital City Orthopaedics

Rotator Cuff Tear

Rotator cuff tears can occur secondary to acute trauma or more commonly secondary to degeneration and repetitive use. An acute traumatic rotator cuff tear is likely to require surgical treatment. Chronic and degenerative tears will often be treated with a course of non-operative treatment prior to surgical consideration. This may include physical therapy, injections, medication, and home exercises. An MRI is often obtained to further evaluate the rotator cuff.

When rotator cuff repair is indicated, it can be performed using several different techniques including both arthroscopic and open surgical approaches. A mini-open approach allows a strong repair similar to a full open approach while also being minimally invasive. The approach used ideally should be that which provides the strongest repair for a particular tear.

There are a significant number of rotator cuff repairs that do not heal after surgery. Appropriate rehabilitation plays a significant role in recovery after rotator cuff repair. Restrictions placed on activities and exercises are necessary to allow healing. Range of motion, strength, and endurance are gradually increased through phases which are progressed over 3-4 months. The phases are designed to gradually restore function while protecting the repair. Overall recovery can take 4-6 months.

This information is a brief summary regarding treatment of rotator cuff tears and not intended to be a complete resource. Specific questions and surgical details should be discussed with your surgeon as opinions may vary.

Resources on Rotator Cuff Tears

More information is available through the website of The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Click on the following link: Rotator Cuff Tears. A 3D animation library provided by the The American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine and Understand.com is available through the following link, 3D Animation Video. After clicking on the link, move the mouse over Shoulder to view the available animations.