A torn rotator cuff can be significantly painful, and it can limit your range of motion in your arm and shoulder until it is repaired. While some small tears may heal on their own without intervention, a complete, large tear is likely to require more extensive intervention. In fact, you may find that you need to visit an orthopedic surgeon to do a surgical repair of the damage. This repair involves stitching the tear to fix it. Here is a look at what you should know if you're facing this type of surgery.
Preparing for Rotator Cuff Surgery
Talk with the orthopedic surgeon about any medications that you're taking a couple of weeks before the surgery, because you might have to skip any medications that thin your blood for several days to a week before your surgery. You'll also be advised to avoid smoking and any alcohol consumption. If you have any other medical conditions, tell the surgeon about them ahead of time so that he or she can address any potential complications. You'll probably be instructed to avoid eating or drinking after midnight on the night right before your surgery, because you'll have anesthesia that morning. Finally, make sure you have someone with you to bring you home when you're discharged.
Understanding Rotator Cuff Surgery
Although rotator cuff surgery used to be an invasive procedure, recent surgical advancements have simplified the process for some patients. There are two different surgical repair approaches that your doctor may recommend.
Arthroscopic Repair - An arthroscopic repair involves making small incisions and using an arthroscope to make repairs to the rotator cuff. This is ideal for some of the more minor repairs or easily-accessed tears. Arthroscopic procedures use the arthroscope, or a small camera with a light, to see the area and do the work.
Open Repair - An open repair is the most invasive, and it involves a large incision for the surgery. This process is usually reserved for the larger, more complex tears that require more extensive work. For example, if your surgeon has to detach the deltoid muscle, it will require a large incision.
Preparing for Recovery
Once the surgery is complete, you'll spend a few hours in the recovery area while the anesthesia wears off. Depending on how severe the damage was, you may be released on the same day, or you might have to stay for a day or two for observation.
During the first several weeks following your surgery, you'll have to keep your shoulder immobilized in a brace to protect the joint and tendons during healing. Your doctor will recommend, however, specific stretches and movements for your arm to prevent atrophy while your shoulder recovers. This period will be followed by some basic passive exercises with a physical therapist. This will start to restore some range of motion and muscle strength in the shoulder and arm. This usually continues for a month or two before progressing to more active exercises. While passive exercises usually require the support of the physical therapist, active exercises are within your control.
Now that you understand what's ahead, you can approach your surgery with confidence and understanding. Talk with your orthopedic surgeon today or check out sites like http://www.towncenterorthopaedics.com for other tips to help you prepare.