Rotator Cuff (RTC) tear: a common injury of the shoulder

While not every tear needs repair, those tears that exist with the symptoms of pain, weakness and sleep disturbance often require surgical repair. The vast majority of the time of the repair involves reattaching the tendon back to the bone. In this day and age that repair is done arthroscopically (multiple small stab incisions instead of one large incision).

More recent information questions the percentage of successful reattachment even in the face of post-op symptom improvement. Risk factors for failed repairs or retears include age of patient, size of original tear, smoking and other health issues.

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Successful Rotator Cuff Repair and Recovery

In an attempt to understand and improve on the rate of successful outcomes, attention is now being paid to the time required to restrict demands on the repaired tendon.

Over the past 10 years post-op time restrictions for lifting and sport participation have ranged from 2 to 6 months. More recent literature would support a minimum of 6 months. This has significant bearing on patients who have to return to physically demanding jobs and those patients who are passionate about sports like tennis, golf, bow hunting, swimming, and weight training.

Should you get rotator cuff surgery?

Also prominent in the rotator cuff discussion is the time of surgery. It is apparent particularly in an active population that the RTC tear will likely enlarge over time and left alone can accelerate shoulder joint arthritis and joint destruction.

As a society we are living longer and asking more of our bodies. From the RTC standpoint, I believe the message is treat RTC disease early and when it comes to surgical repair, slow return to high demand activity is best.

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