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Questions You May Have After Being Advised To Have Rotator Cuff Surgery

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Hearing that you have a torn rotator cuff and that you will need surgery to repair it can make your heart sink. This is a rather involved orthopedic surgery and one that will require you to take it easy for several months afterward in order to heal. When the shock of the diagnosis wears off, you're sure to have questions about rotator cuff repair. Here are some answers.

Why is surgery necessary?

Sometimes patients put off surgery in hope that their shoulder will heal on its own if they wait long enough. However, this is unlikely to happen. The rotator cuff is a system of tendons that hold your muscles to the bones of your shoulder. Tendons get very poor circulation, so they rarely heal on their own, especially when there is an actual tear. If your doctor is recommending surgery, it's because your rotator cuff tear won't heal on its own, even if you were to rest for a year!

Where will the incision be?

Sometimes patients stand in front of the mirror, wondering how they'll look with a big scar on their shoulder. Here's some good news: your scars will be small, and they should not be very obvious after a few months. Most rotator cuff surgeries are now performed arthroscopically. In other words, they are performed with robotic and camera assistance through two or three tiny, 1-inch incisions. You'll have a lot of internal healing to do after rotator cuff repair, but the incisions that need to heal will be quite small. You'll probably have one on the front of your shoulder, one on the back, and one on your arm where it meets your shoulder.

Will you have to stay in the hospital after surgery?

Unless you have an underlying condition that makes it more dangerous than usual for you to undergo surgery, you should be able to return home the day of your procedure. Most surgeons perform surgery in the morning so their patients can spend the day recovering in the surgical center and then go home at night. (And most rotator cuff surgeries are performed at orthopedic centers, which are not always in a hospital.) You will need someone to take care of you at home, at least for the first week. 

Hopefully, many of your questions about your upcoming rotator cuff repair have been answered. Talk to your doctor if you have additional concerns.