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What is rotator cuff surgery?

Rotator cuff surgery is the surgical repair of a damaged rotator cuff tendon. The rotator cuff tendons are tough piece of connective tissue that control the motion of your shoulder joint. Your shoulder joint is formed where your upper arm bone (humerus), shoulder blade (scapula), and collarbone (clavicle) meet. Tendons attach a group of four muscles to these bones to form your rotator cuff. 

Rotator cuff surgery can help restore pain-free range of motion and full function in a damaged shoulder joint.

Rotator cuff tears are common, but not all rotator cuff tears require surgery. Rotator cuff surgery is a major surgery with serious risks, a long recovery, and potential complications. You may have less invasive treatment options. Consider getting a second opinion about all of your treatment choices before having rotator cuff surgery. 

Types of rotator cuff surgery

The types of rotator cuff surgery include:

  • Complete tear or full-thickness tear repair. A complete tear is when your tendon detaches completely from the bone. Your surgeon will reattach your tendon to the bone. 
  • Partial tear repair or debridement. Partial tears often begin with fraying and inflammation of your tendon. Your surgeon may only need to trim and smooth your tendon for this type of repair. 

Other procedures that may be performed

Your doctor may perform other procedures to treat certain coexisting conditions. These include:

  • Bone fracture or dislocation repair. Injuries can cause rotator cuff tears requiring surgical repair of both the tear and the injury. These injuries include a fractured collarbone, a fractured humerus, and shoulder dislocations.
  • Bursectomy or bursa sac repair to treat a damaged bursa sac, which can occur with a damaged tendon. Your bursa sac provides cushioning for your joint.
  • Shoulder replacement to treat osteoarthritis of your shoulder. Shoulder replacement can involve a partial replacement of just one part of your bone or a total replacement of your entire shoulder joint.
  • Soft tissue repair to treat damage to your shoulder muscles.
Medical Reviewers: Daphne E. Hemmings, MD, MPH Last Review Date: May 7, 2013

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Medical References

  1. Pile, JC. Evaluating postoperative fever: A focused approach. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine. 2006;73 (Suppl 1):S62. http://ccjm.org/content/73/Suppl_1/S62.full.pdf
  2. Rotator Cuff Repair. MedlinePlus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/007207.htm.  
  3. Rotator Cuff Tears. American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00064.
  4. Rotator Cuff Tears: Surgery and Exercise. Cleveland Clinic. http://my.clevelandclinic.org/disorders/rotator_cuff/hic_rotator_cuff_tears_surgery_and_exercise.asp...
  5. Rotator Cuff Tears: Surgical Treatment Options. American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00406.
  6. Shoulder Problems. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Shoulder_Problems/.
  7. Shoulder Surgery. American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00066.

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