How do I prepare for my rotator cuff surgery? 

You are an important member of your own healthcare team. The steps you take before surgery can improve your outcome after the procedure. You can prepare for rotator cuff surgery by:

  • Answering all questions about your medical history and medications you take. This includes prescriptions, over-the-counter drugs, herbal treatments, and vitamins. It is a good idea to carry a current list of your medical conditions, medications, and allergies at all times.
  • Getting preoperative testing as directed. Testing varies depending on your age, health, and specific procedure. Preoperative testing may include a chest X-ray, EKG (electrocardiogram), blood tests, and other tests as needed.
  • Losing weight before the surgery through a healthy diet and exercise plan
  • Not eating or drinking just prior to surgery as directed. Your doctor may cancel your surgery if you eat or drink too close to the start of the procedure because you can choke on stomach contents during anesthesia.
  • Stopping smoking as soon as possible. Even quitting for just a few days can be beneficial and help the healing process.
  • Showering with an anti-septic soap the night before and the morning of surgery.
  • Taking or stopping medications exactly as directed. For rotator cuff surgery, this may include not taking aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and blood thinners. 

Questions to ask your doctor

Facing surgery can be stressful. It is common for patients to forget some of their questions during a doctor’s office visit. You may also think of other questions after your appointment. Contact your doctor with concerns and questions before surgery and between appointments. 

It is also a good idea to bring a list of questions to your preoperative appointments. Questions can include:

  • Why do I need rotator cuff surgery? Are there any other options for treating my condition?
  • Which type of rotator cuff surgery procedure will I need?
  • How long will the surgery take? When can I go home?
  • What kind of restrictions will I have after the surgery? When can I return to work and other activities?
  • What kind of assistance will I need at home?
  • What medications will I need before and after the surgery? How should I take my usual medications? 
  • How will you manage my pain?
  • When should I follow up with you? 
  • How should I contact you? Ask for numbers to call during and after regular hours.

What can I expect after my rotator cuff surgery?

Knowing what to expect can help make your road to recovery after rotator cuff surgery as smooth as possible. 

How long will it take to recover?

You will stay in the recovery room after surgery until you are alert, breathing effectively, and your vital signs are stable. You may have a sore throat if a tube was placed in your windpipe during surgery. This is usually temporary, but tell your care team if you are uncomfortable.

Depending on the type of procedure, you may go home on the same day if you are recovering well. In other cases, a hospital stay of one to two days may be required. 

Recovery after surgery is a gradual process. Recovery time varies depending on the specific procedure, type of anesthesia used, your general health, age, and other factors. You may need to wear a sling for several weeks after your surgery. Your doctor will likely refer you to physical therapy and an exercise rehabilitation program to help you recover. Full recovery times range from three to twelve months.

Will I feel pain?

Pain control is important for healing and a smooth recovery. There will be discomfort after your surgery. Your doctor and care team will manage your pain so you are comfortable and can get the rest you need. Contact your doctor if your pain gets worse or changes because it may be a sign of a complication. 

When should I call my doctor?

It is important to keep your follow-up appointments after rotator cuff surgery. Call your doctor if you have concerns or questions between appointments. Call your doctor right away or seek immediate medical care if you have:

  • Bleeding
  • Breathing problems, such as shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, labored breathing, or wheezing
  • Change in alertness, such as passing out, dizziness, unresponsiveness, or confusion
  • Fever. A low-grade fever (lower than 101 degrees Fahrenheit) is common for a couple of days after surgery and not necessarily a sign of a surgical infection. However, you should follow your doctor's specific instructions about when to call for a fever.
  • Inability to urinate, have a bowel movement, or pass gas
  • Numbness of the affected arm
  • Pain that is not controlled by your pain medication
  • Unexpected drainage, pus, redness or swelling of your incision