Rotator Cuff Repair

Rotator cuff repair is a surgical procedure used to treat a torn rotator cuff tendon. Read on to learn more about this procedure and when it might be necessary. We will also talk about the types of procedures used to do the repair and the recovery period that is involved.

Are you struggling with shoulder pain and limited mobility? Discover how rotator cuff repair surgery with Brent J. Morris, MD, in Lexington, Kentucky, could help restore your quality of life. Begin your journey by learning more about our personalized treatment options and scheduling a consultation today!

Dr. Brent J. Morris, MD, smiling.

Orthopedic Shoulder & Elbow Surgeon located in Lexington, KY

What is the Rotator Cuff?

The rotator cuff is a group of muscles that surround your shoulder joint and hold your upper arm bone in the shoulder socket. The rotator cuff comprises four muscles that come together as tendons. They cover the head of the humerus, connecting the upper arm bone to the shoulder blade. The rotator cuff muscles have a role in lifting and rotating your arm.

What is Rotator Cuff Repair Surgery?

Rotator cuff repair surgery is a procedure used to treat some rotator cuff injuries. It often involves reattaching the rotator cuff tendon to the head of the upper arm bone. This is often the case when there is a complete rotator cuff tear.

The tendon is stitched back to its original location on the bone. A partial rotator cuff tear may only need trimming or smoothing in a procedure called debridement.

Why is a Rotator Cuff Repair Surgery Performed?

You may be recommended for a rotator cuff repair surgery if you have tried non-surgical treatments for a rotator cuff injury and the pain has not improved. You may also require surgery if you are active and use your arm for overhead work or sports.

Other reasons for rotator cuff repair may include the following:

  • Your symptoms persist for 6 to 12 months.
  • You have a substantial tear (exceeding 3 cm) with healthy surrounding tendon tissue.
  • You experience notable weakness and limited function in your shoulder.
  • Your tear resulted from a recent, acute injury.

Types of Surgical Procedures

Various surgical options exist for repairing rotator cuff tears. Advancements in techniques allow for less invasive procedures. The choice of repair method depends on factors such as the surgeon’s expertise, tear size, anatomy, and tissue quality.

Most repairs can be done on an outpatient basis. Common shoulder issues like biceps tendon tears, osteoarthritis, and bone spurs may also be addressed during surgery.

The three main techniques are traditional open repair, arthroscopic repair, and mini-open repair. Despite their differences, all methods are rated similarly by patients in terms of pain relief, strength improvement, and overall satisfaction.

Dr. Morris performs nearly all of his rotator cuff repairs with an all-arthroscopic or minimally invasive technique, but it is good to know all technique possibilities. 

  • Traditional open repair: This involves a larger incision and may be necessary for complex tears. It allows for better visibility of the torn tendon but may involve detaching part of the deltoid muscle.
  • All-arthroscopic repair: This procedure utilizes small incisions and a camera to guide surgical instruments, making it the least invasive option.
  • Mini-open repair: This procedure combines aspects of both techniques, using a smaller incision while still allowing direct visualization of the shoulder structures.

The Risks of Rotator Cuff Surgery

Complications following surgery are not very common but can occur. Besides complications related to surgery, such as blood loss or problems related to anesthesia, there is a risk of the following complications:

  • Infection: You will be given antibiotics to reduce the risk of infection. 
  • Nerve injury: In rare cases, the nerve responsible for activating the deltoid muscle can be injured.
  • Stiffness: Starting rehabilitation early reduces the risk of long-term stiffness or restricted motion. Stiffness typically improves with more intensive therapy and exercise.
  • Tendon re-tear: There’s a possibility of re-tearing following any type of repair, with a higher risk for larger tears. However, patients who experience re-tears often don’t report increased pain or decreased shoulder function. Repeat surgery is considered only if there’s severe pain or functional loss.

Recovery After Rotator Cuff Surgery

After a rotator cuff surgery, you can expect to feel some pain. For the first few weeks after surgery, you may be prescribed medications for pain. These may include opioids, muscle spasm medications, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Combining these medications can enhance pain relief while reducing reliance on opioids.

Use opioids strictly as directed by your doctor. If your pain persists beyond a few weeks post-surgery, consult your doctor.

Immobilization after surgery is necessary to protect the repair while the tendon heals. This typically involves wearing a sling and avoiding arm movement for 3 to 4 weeks, varying based on the severity of the injury.

Rehabilitation is an important part of recovery. After a period of immobilization, you will begin physical therapy to regain shoulder strength and mobility. These exercises help improve shoulder range of motion within the first 4 to 6 weeks post-surgery. These exercises involve the therapist supporting and moving your arm to different positions.

After this initial phase, you’ll progress to active exercises without therapist assistance, gradually increasing strength and arm control. By around 12 weeks, your therapist will introduce a strengthening exercise regimen.

Full recovery typically takes several months, with most patients achieving functional range of motion and strength 6 months post-surgery although recovery can sometimes take 9 to 12 months. Consistent commitment to rehabilitation is crucial for a successful outcome.


The goal of surgery is to experience improved shoulder strength and less pain following surgery for a torn rotator cuff.

Schedule an Appointment Today

Ready to take the next step towards relieving your shoulder pain and improving your quality of life? Schedule a consultation with Dr. Brent Morris today, located in Lexington, Kentucky. With expertise in rotator cuff repair surgery and a commitment to personalized care, Dr. Morris can guide you through the process and help you achieve the best possible outcome for your shoulder health.

Don’t let shoulder discomfort hold you back any longer. Contact our practice today!

Medically reviewed by Brent J. Morris, MD