What to Expect From Rotator Cuff Surgery: All Your Questions Answered

If you need your rotator cuff repaired due to an injury, overuse, or the natural degeneration caused by aging, surgery can help get rid of your pain and restore some or all of your range of motion. Surgery may involve anything from shaving off bone spurs that are pinching nerves to repairing connective tissue.

Surgical repair is usually performed only after less invasive treatments are tried. If you and your doctor at Pennsylvania Orthopedic Specialists decide surgery is your best option, they will tell you how to prepare and answer all your questions.

How should I prepare in advance of the surgery?

You’ll undergo a thorough review of your current health and medical history with the team at Pennsylvania Orthopedic Specialists, so they can make sure you’re in good enough health for the surgery.

They may ask you to stop taking certain supplements or nonessential prescription drugs prior to your surgery, because certain drugs may react to the anesthesia. The night before your surgery, you’ll fast for 8-12 hours. You should also arrange to have a person drive you to and from your surgery.

What should I expect on the day of the rotator cuff surgery?

Rotator cuff surgery is typically done as an outpatient procedure, so you should go home the same day. You’ll wear a hospital gown, and your surgery will be performed under general anesthesia.

First, your surgeon will clean your shoulder and apply an antiseptic solution. Then your surgeon will make incisions in your shoulder. The size of your incisions will depend on whether you’re having arthroscopic surgery, open surgery, or a combination. Arthroscopic surgery is the least invasive of the two. It involves making small incisions in your shoulder to accommodate inserting tiny instruments and a small tube affixed with a video lens and a light.

The video camera projects images onto a screen in the operating room so your doctors can perform your surgery. When your surgery is finished, the team will close your incisions with stitches or staples and wrap the site with a surgical dressing.

What happens after surgery?

Right after your surgery, you will be wheeled into a recovery room for observation. How long you stay in the recovery room will depend on the type of anesthesia you received and the extent of your surgery. Once you’re vital signs are stable and your pain is under control, your doctor will send you home to recover.

You’ll likely be given a sling or another type of immobilizer before leaving the hospital. You will need someone to drive you home, and you will likely have restrictions on driving and doing other activities for several weeks.

How do I care for the surgical site at home?

Before your surgery, your doctor will give you instructions on how to care for the surgical site. Your doctor will also schedule an appointment for a week or so after your surgery to see how you’re healing and to remove any stitches or staples.

For pain, your doctor will prescribe medication or recommended over-the-counter medicines. You can also put ice on the affected area to reduce pain.

What are the risks of rotator cuff surgery?

Any surgery comes with risks. It’s possible to experience bleeding, develop an infection, or get a blood clot. Keeping the site clean and walking regularly can help prevent these risks from manifesting.

If you experience fever, redness, drainage, or increased pain at the incision site, or numbness in your arm or hand of the treated shoulder, contact Pennsylvania Orthopedic Specialists right away.

You will have some restrictions on your mobility for several weeks or even months. To help in your recovery, the team will design a rehabilitation and physical therapy plan.

To learn more about rotator cuff surgery, book an appointment online or over the phone with Pennsylvania Orthopedic Specialists today.


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