What To Expect From Arthroscopic Surgery For A Torn Rotator Cuff

It only takes a second to put enough stress on your shoulder to injure the muscles and tendons surrounding that joint. This is a common sports injury, but it also happens when lifting heavy items or reaching up over your head for something on a high shelf. If your orthopedic doctor recommends arthroscopic surgery to repair the damage, you'll have a shorter recovery period than if traditional surgery is done on your shoulder. Here is what you can expect from this type of surgery and your subsequent recovery.

The Arthroscopic Surgery on Your Shoulder

You'll be given a general anesthetic for this procedure. Plan to spend a couple of days in the hospital to recover from the anesthesia and for the doctor to make sure you don't have excess bleeding from the procedure.

Once you're in the operating room and under the anesthesia, the surgeon, like those at Framingham Orthopedic Associates, will make one or more small incisions over your shoulder joint. Into one of these incisions, they will insert a small fiber cable which contains a camera on the end. The cable is attached to a monitor on which the doctor will look into your shoulder as they do the repairs. Another cable is inserted into your shoulder on which are the instruments your doctor will use to repair the torn tissues.

Once the surgeon has a clear view inside of your shoulder joint, they will do the following:

  • Identify the tendons that have pulled away from the shoulder bones.
  • Reattach the tendons to the bones with small metal or plastic suture anchors.
  • Repair any tears in the tendons with additional sutures.

An advantage of arthroscopic surgery over the traditional surgery, which opens up the shoulder joint, is that there is less tissue damage as a result of the surgery, and less bleeding in the joint. When the surgery is done, the camera and instruments are removed, small stitches are used to close the incisions and you'll be taken to the recovery area.

Recovery After the Surgery

You'll be in the hospital at least overnight while your shoulder is monitored for inflammation and bleeding. You'll then get orders from your doctor for physical therapy and be sent home.

You'll go home with your arm and shoulder in a special sling that keeps your arm against your body. This holds your shoulder in the best position for tissue healing. After a few days, you'll be able to take the sling off and begin physical therapy.

The therapy will initially focus on slowly stretching out the muscles and tendons in your shoulder to restore range of motion to your shoulder joint. This may take from a few days to weeks, depending on the extent of the initial injury and the amount of repair your doctor had to do.

Once flexibility has been restored in your shoulder, strength training will begin. The muscles in your shoulder will be built back up so they can protect your shoulder from future injury. This phase will also take several weeks. It may take longer if you will be returning to playing a sports activity.

The healing of tendons and muscles take time, and you'll need to be patient during your physical therapy. If you try to rush the process, you risk re-injuring your shoulder which may require additional surgery.