Rotator-cuff problems can cause pain and weakness in your shoulder. Surgery can help to reduce any pain and to get back some strength in your shoulder.

What is the rotator cuff?

The rotator cuff is formed from four muscles and tendons that attach your arm to the top of your shoulder blade. Impingement or a tear are the usual types of damage that can happen to the rotator cuff.

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How do I know if I have damaged my rotator cuff?

You may have sustained a rotator cuff injury if:

  • You feel a dull ache deep in the shoulder
  • Pain disturbs your sleep 
  • You find it difficult to comb your hair or reach behind your back
  • Pain is accompanied by arm weakness

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What does the operation involve?

Shoulder surgery is usually performed under a general anaesthetic. However, a variety of anaesthetic techniques is possible. The operation usually takes 45 minutes to an hour. 

Impingement is usually treated by arthroscopy (keyhole surgery). Your surgeon will use instruments to remove any thickened tissue, release any tight tissue and to shave off some bone.

Your surgeon may use open surgery to repair any tears. They will make a single cut on the front of your shoulder and they will repair the rotator cuff using stitches that anchor into the bone.

Shoulder surgery at The Horder Centre

Presented by Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon Jamie Buchanan, this video offers advice on shoulder pain and the surgery options available.

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Are there any alternatives to surgery?

Most people with impingement or a small tear can get back good function by changing their activities and with the help of physiotherapy. Simple painkillers such as paracetamol and anti-inflammatory painkillers such as ibuprofen can also help.

A steroid and local-anaesthetic injection into your shoulder can sometimes reduce pain. Although, if you have a large tear, it is likely that surgery is your only option to get back some strength in your shoulder.

» Physiotherapy service

What complications can happen?

General complications

  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Infection of the surgical site (wound)
  • Unsightly scarring

Specific complications

  • Bleeding into the shoulder
  • Restricted shoulder movement
  • Infection in the shoulder
  • Blood clot
  • Severe pain, stiffness and loss of use of the arm and hand (complex regional pain syndrome)
  • Damage to nerves
  • The rotator cuff tearing again or the tear failing to heal
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Information leaflet

This document is intended for information purposes only and should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

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Acknowledgements
Lennard Funk (MSc FRCS)
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The operation and treatment information on this webpage is produced using information from EIDO Systems International and is licensed by Horder Healthcare. The information should not replace the advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

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