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Rotator cuff surgery

The rotator cuff refers to the tendons and muscles deep within the shoulder. They work with the deltoid muscle to help stabilise the ball and socket joint and move the arm.

A key symptom of a rotator cuff issue is pain on the side of the arm, particularly when the arm is raised or stretched out. You might also experience pain at night that wakes you from sleep.

If you are experiencing pain in your shoulder after an injury or you’ve noticed your shoulder weakening over time, talk to one of our specialist consultants. They can investigate the issue further and recommend the next course of action, which may involve surgery.

Discover the benefits of a specialist unit

Shorter waiting times: Shoulder pain can prevent you from doing the activities you love. With shorter waiting times for consultant appointments and diagnostics, we’re helping patients to move forward faster.

World-class surgeons: Our Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeons specialise in shoulder and elbow issues. Harnessing a wealth of expertise, the latest techniques and technologies, they aim to ensure you’re receiving the highest possible standard of care.

Enhanced recovery: If you do need rotator cuff surgery, your recovery will be supported by our team of physiotherapists and occupational therapists. They’re here to help you get back to the activities you love.

Your rotator cuff surgery questions answered

Issues in the rotator cuff are incredibly common, particularly as we age. In fact, it’s estimated that 70% of shoulder pain cases involve the rotator cuff. Below, we’ve answered some of the questions you might have about non-surgical and surgical interventions.

How does the rotator cuff become damaged?

Rotator cuff tendons can become damaged due to an injury or through wear and tear over time. The damage can cause pain and muscle weakness and limit the function of the arm.

There are two types of rotator cuff issues: Inflamed tendons (due to a sprain) and torn tendons. Torn tendons fall into two categories:

Acute: This is when the tendons have torn due to an injury, for example, if the shoulder has been pulled or overstretched.

Age-related/chronic: This is when the tendons have weakened due to the changes that occur when we age. These tears develop slowly and are not caused by an injury.

Surgery may be recommended for torn tendons because they are unable to heal on their own.

Your consultant will want to understand the history of the pain you are experiencing and see you in person for a physical examination. They may then refer you for advanced diagnostics, such as an MRI, which we offer here at Sulis Hospital.

Not every rotator cuff issue requires surgery. Your consultant will consider many factors, including your age and how severe the tear is, before recommending an intervention.

Some patients find that non-surgical interventions are helpful – these can include steroid injections and physiotherapy. However, if the scans show that the tendons have torn or non-surgical approaches have been exhausted, then surgery may be the recommended course of action.

Our team of specialists will ensure that you are fully prepared before the procedure. It is important to tell your consultant about any medications or supplements you might be taking, as they may recommend that you pause these ahead of surgery.

Most patients are asked not to eat anything for at least 8 hours before surgery. You will also need to arrange for someone to pick you up from the hospital, as you won’t be able to drive.

Rotator cuff surgery is typically performed as a day-patient procedure, which means there is no overnight stay. You will either be under a general anaesthetic (sedated) or a local/regional anaesthetic.

The procedure can be performed arthroscopically (a type of keyhole surgery), a minimally invasive technique. The aim is to make more space for the tendons by removing the inflamed tissue and to reattach the torn tendons to the bone bed.

Your surgery may also involve the use of bioinductive implants (collagen tissue), a new technique that promotes healing. The advantage of a biological approach is that it can enhance recovery and help patients to return to their activities faster.

Most patients can return home on the same day as their surgery. Before you leave the hospital, our physiotherapists will demonstrate the exercises you can do straight away to start your rehabilitation.

Patients usually begin their recovery wearing a sling. You may be given a nerve block (an anaesthetising injection) to help with any initial pain and regular painkillers to take while you recover.

Most patients remove their slings after 2-3 weeks. At this point, you will have an appointment with a physiotherapist who will make sure your rehabilitation is on track. After 2-3 months, you will have a follow-up appointment with your consultant to see how you are progressing. Making a full recovery typically takes between 9-12 months.

No surgery is without risk and for rotator cuff surgery, complications can include infection, nerve damage at the surgical site, bleeding and blood clots. There is also the risk that the surgery won’t help with your pain or restore the function of your shoulder.

If the tendon tear is particularly large, it may not be possible to reattach it using arthroscopic surgery without a higher risk of failure. In this instance, your consultant may recommend using a donor graft. Your consultant will discuss the treatment options, risks and limitations of surgery with you during your consultation.

You may be covered by private medical insurance, or you may wish to consider spreading the cost of your surgery by opting for a monthly payment plan.

We aim to make our costs as transparent as possible, but it’s important to talk everything through in detail with your consultant at the time of your appointment. Some costs may be paid directly to the hospital, while others, such as your consultant fees, may be paid directly to the consultant.

Sulis Hospital Bath
Choose Sulis Hospital for your rotator cuff surgery

We understand that shoulder pain can prevent you from doing the activities you love. That’s why we’re focussed on helping patients to get seen sooner, with shorter waiting times for specialist consultants and diagnostics.

One of the key benefits of choosing Sulis Hospital Shoulder and Elbow Unit is that you will be treated by specialists. By combining the expertise of a multidisciplinary team, including surgeons, nurses and physiotherapists, we’re able to deliver an exceptional standard of care

Treatment Overview

Combining a calming hospital environment with outstanding patient care so you can recover as quickly as possible.

  • Typical hospital stay Daycase

  • Type of anaesthetic General

  • Covered by health insurance? Yes

  • Can I pay privately? Yes

You’re in safe hands at Sulis Hospital

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