Your rotator cuff consists of a group of tendons and muscles in the shoulder that help keep the shoulder joint in place and allow you to lift and rotate the arm. A rotator cuff repair may be done when a tendon tears or a nerve becomes pinched in the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff tendon may tear when the tendon pulls away from the bone, causing damage to the soft tissue. In cases where physiotherapy is not sufficient, Dr Khumalo may perform a rotator cuff repair through open or arthroscopic surgery.

How is a rotator cuff repaired?

If Dr Khumalo deems arthroscopic repair best, he begins by inserting a small camera into your shoulder joint through puncture-like incisions once you are under general anaesthesia. Using this tiny camera, images will be displayed on a screen so that your orthopaedic surgeon may view the shoulder joint and damage that may have occurred. Using these small surgical tools, he may repair torn ligaments or tendons that may have occurred during a rotator cuff injury. Due to the nature of this minimally invasive surgery, surgical equipment used is particularly small, which means that the recovery is less painful, and quicker than in traditional open surgery.

In some cases, such as a large or complex tear, Dr Khumalo may choose open surgery to repair the rotator cuff. In this case, your orthopaedic surgeon will make a larger incision into the shoulder to access the shoulder joint and damage that may have occurred. To better access the tendons and ligaments, the shoulder muscle is detached so the surgeon has direct access. He will then repair or replace the torn ligaments or tendons before closing the incision.

What will recovery entail?

Whether you have an open or arthroscopic rotator cuff repair, you can expect to experience some pain and swelling for the next few weeks. You will be prescribed pain medication and ice to relieve the pain. Your shoulder will be put into a sling for roughly 6 weeks to allow your shoulder to heal. Your orthopaedic surgeon may advise you to have physiotherapy to help regain strength, mobility and coordination of the shoulder joint.

You will be able to return to normal activities with comfort only after full recovery, which may take up to 8 weeks. Until then, exercise and activity should be limited until strength and mobility returns. Most patients are back to their normal activity within 6 months of a rotator cuff repair.

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Dr Dlozi Khumalo is a compassionate Specialist Orthopaedic Surgeon with a keen interest in spinal conditions, hip and knee replacements, hand & foot surgery and limb reconstructive surgery. Feel free to make an appointment at his Benoni based practice.

Suite 4, 2nd Floor, Sunshine Hospital, 1522 Soma Street, Actonville, Benoni, 1501

+27 (0)11 898 8000