Rotator Cuff Repair
by Editorial Staff And Contributors
The rotator cuff is a group of 4 muscles in the shoulder and upper arm. The muscles help to move the arm at the shoulder and to stabilize the joint. The muscles are connected to the shoulder bone by tendons, which are strong, flexible cords. The muscles or tendons may become damaged from long term overuse or from injury.
Reasons for Procedure
Your doctor may recommend this procedure for:
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Your doctor may do the following:
Before this procedure, you will need to:
You may need to stop taking some medications up to 1 week before the procedure.
Do not eat or drink anything after midnight the day before your procedure, unless told otherwise by your doctor.
General anesthesia is typically used. You will be asleep during the procedure.
Description of Procedure
There are 2 methods used to perform a rotator cuff repair:
A cut will be made in the skin over the shoulder. The torn muscle or tendon will be repaired and reattached and/or anchored with stitches. The incision will then be closed with stitches or staples.
A few small incisions will be made in the shoulder. A narrow tool called an arthroscope will be inserted through the incision. The scope has a tiny camera to allow the doctor to see inside. Other small instruments will be inserted through the other incisions. These tools will be used to repair the tendon or muscle.
After either procedure, the incisions will be bandaged. Your arm will be placed in a sling or brace to immobilize the joint.
How Long Will It Take?
About 1½ to 2 hours
How Much Will It Hurt?
Anesthesia prevents pain during the procedure. You may have some discomfort immediately after. Ask your doctor about medication to help with the pain.
Average Hospital Stay
You may be able to go home the same day. Some may need to stay in the hospital overnight.
At the Care Center
Right after the procedure, you may be given medication, such as:
When you return home, take these steps:
The rotator cuff will take several months to heal. It may take some time before you can raise your arm above your shoulder. It may be up to 1 year before you can hold your arm above your head and do work with reasonable strength. An aggressive and consistent physical therapy and exercise program is the key to a faster recovery.
Call Your Doctor
Contact your doctor if your recovery is not progressing as expected or you develop complications such as:
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
American College of Sports Medicine
FamilyDoctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Canadian Physiotherapy Association
Public Health Agency of Canada
Rotator cuff repair. Johns Hopkins Medicine website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed February 8, 2018.
Rotator cuff tear. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114498/Rotator-cuff-tear . Updated February 16, 2017. Accessed February 8, 2018.
Rotator cuff tears: surgical treatment options. American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated March 2017. Accessed February 8, 2018.
6/2/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance. http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114498/Rotator-cuff-tear : Mills E, Eyawo O, et al. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2011;124(2):144-154.e8.
Last reviewed March 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Warren A. Bodine, DO, CAQSM
Last Updated: 2/26/2014
EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.