The rotator cuff consists of muscles and tendons that hold the shoulder in place and allows a person to lift his and her arm and reach up. It stabilizes the ball-and-socket joint of the shoulder and allows for normal shoulder mechanics. An injury to the rotator cuff, such as a tear, may happen suddenly when falling on an outstretched hand or develop over time due to repetitive activities and eventually require rotator cuff surgery.
What causes Rotator Cuff Injuries?
Injuries to the shoulder are common. The rotator cuff may be damaged from a fall or other injury to the shoulder. Damage may also occur slowly over time. In older patients, there may not be an injury or event to cause the tear. The damage may be due to:
- strains or tears in the rotator cuff
- inflammation of the bursa (bursitis) in the shoulder
- inflammation of the tendons (tendinitis) in the shoulder
Recurrent pain, limited ability to move the arm, and muscle weakness are the most common symptoms.
Medical treatments for rotator cuff injury may include, but are not limited to, the following:
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications
- strengthening and stretching exercises
- steroid injections
If medical treatments are not satisfactory, rotator cuff surgery may be an effective treatment for shoulder repair.
What is Rotator Cuff Surgery?
If the rotator cuff is injured, it may need to be repaired surgically. This may include shaving off bone spurs that are pinching the shoulder, and repairing torn tendons or muscles in the shoulder.
Surgical techniques that may be used to repair a tear of the rotator cuff include arthroscopy, open surgery, or a combination of both. The goal of rotator cuff repair surgery is to help restore the function and flexibility of the shoulder and to relieve the pain that cannot be controlled by other treatments.
Rotator cuff surgery may be performed using an arthroscope. An arthroscope is a small, tube-shaped instrument that is inserted into a joint. It consists of a system of lenses, a small video camera, and a light for viewing. The camera is connected to a monitoring system that allows the doctor to view a joint through a very small incision. The arthroscope is often used in conjunction with other tools that are inserted through another incision.
An open repair may be performed if the rotator cuff injury cannot be repaired using arthroscopy. In some cases, a tendon graft and joint replacement may be necessary.
Bone and Joint Care at Brigham and Women’s Hospital
The Orthopaedic & Arthritis Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital is one of the most highly regarded orthopaedic and joint disease research and treatment programs in the world. Comprehensive and innovative bone and joint care is the foundation of the Center, beginning nearly a century ago when one of our founding hospitals, the Robert Breck Brigham Hospital, became the first teaching hospital in the country wholly devoted to arthritis treatment and related diseases.
Today, the Center – a collaboration of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and the Division of Rheumatology, Inflammation, and Immunity - is known for its pioneering team of physicians and researchers dedicated to doing everything possible for our patients while helping to develop and apply the most advanced treatments for bone and joint diseases and conditions.
Patient- and Family-focused Care
Brigham and Women’s Hospital has long been committed to not only the care of our patients but also the many other needs that they and their families have. This philosophy of patient- and family-focused care involves systems and services that emphasize healing in a comfortable, relaxed environment.
Quality of Patient Care
Brigham and Women’s Hospital is committed to providing all of our patients with the safest, highest-quality, most-satisfying care possible and following established protocols that have been shown to improve patient outcomes. Our inpatient satisfaction survey, sent to patients to assess their total care experience, helps us to monitor what we are doing well and what areas may need improvement. We pride ourselves in the quality of patient care we provide and how we compare with other hospitals.
If you believe you should have an evaluation and would like to schedule an appointment with one of our orthopaedic surgeons for rotator cuff surgery, knee replacement surgery or hip replacement surgery, call 1-800-294-9999 to speak to one of our knowledgeable coordinators who can help to connect you to the doctor that best meets your needs, or fill out an online appointment request form.