Rotator Cuff Repair: What You Need to Know

Every year, almost 2 million people in the United States go to the doctor because of rotator cuff tears, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Rotator cuff injuries can weaken your shoulder, making many everyday tasks more difficult or even painful. Renowned San Francisco orthopedic surgeon James Chen, MD, performs rotator cuff repair procedures to address the pain and mobility issues that this type of injury can cause.

Man has shoulder pain and may be a rotator cuff tear or sprain after a gyn workout

What Is Rotator Cuff Repair?

A rotator cuff injury affects the tissue in your shoulder. It is usually caused by overstretching your arm or repetitive stress. Rotator cuff repair is a surgical procedure that addresses the injury by reconnecting a torn tendon to a bone in your shoulder.

This surgery aims to restore the function and strength of your shoulder joint. The procedure can be performed through an open surgery or using arthroscopic techniques.

The goal of a rotator cuff repair is to fix the tendons and group of muscles that connect the upper arm bone to the shoulder, allowing you to lift your arm and rotate your shoulder normally.

When Do Patients Need Rotator Cuff Repair?

San Francisco orthopedic doctor James Chen, MD, recommends rotator cuff repair for people who have shoulder pain that does not diminish with non-surgical treatments. Some of the most common signs that you may need a rotator cuff repair include:

  • Shoulder pain
  • Clicking or popping sensations in the shoulder when moving your arm
  • Shoulder weakness
  • Stiffness in the shoulder that limits movement

At first, the symptoms may be mild and might only occur when you try lifting your arm over your head. You may be able to manage any discomfort with over-the-counter medications. As time passes, however, you may no longer be able to ignore the injury. Regular painkillers may no longer work, and the pain can become excruciating.

Surgery could be necessary if your symptoms have lasted for six to twelve months. If you have a partial rotator cuff tear that affects greater than 50% of the tissue, surgery is also the best option.

What to Expect During Treatment

Dr. Chen performs arthroscopic rotator cuff repairs. He will make three or four small holes around your shoulder to insert a thin fiber-optic camera. The camera displays a live feed, which Dr. Chen monitors as he guides the small tools used in the procedure. Since the tools are very small, arthroscopic surgery requires fewer and smaller incisions than traditional surgery.

Dr. Chen will suture the torn tissue and then reattach it to the shoulder with bioabsorbable anchors.

This is an outpatient procedure that is less invasive than open surgery. The procedure takes between one and two hours and is generally done with regional anesthesia and sedation.

Recovery After a Rotator Cuff Repair

It can take six to eight weeks to recover from a rotator cuff repair surgery because the tendon has to heal. However, the recovery time may vary, depending on the type of tear.

You will have to wear a sling for about six weeks, with only passive motion allowed. The exact length of time will depend on the severity of the injury.

One week after the surgery, you will start physical therapy and continue with it for several months to ensure you regain strength and full motion. You can expect full recovery to take between four and six months.

Although you may not feel any discomfort, this does not mean that you can engage in all manner of activities after the procedure. Follow all of Dr. Chen’s instructions so that you can minimize your recovery time and protect your joint. You may be able to return to driving after two to four weeks.

Top-Notch Treatment from a Renowned Orthopedic Surgeon

Experienced surgeon James Chen, MD, provides quality care for rotator cuff injuries. His patient-centered approach to treatment and the treatment plans he creates allow you to receive personalized care that meets your needs.

As a skilled San Francisco knee doctor and shoulder doctor, Dr. Chen has the kind of dedication that earns him stellar patient testimonials. He offers minimally invasive treatments for conditions that can seriously impact your life. Call James Chen, MD, to learn more about this patient-centered approach to treatment!


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