Skip to Main Content

Rotator cuff surgery

Overview of rotator cuff surgery

The rotator cuff tendon controls the motion of your shoulder joint. If this tendon tears or is damaged, it may require a surgery called a rotator cuff repair. A rotator cuff surgery repairs the tendon, allowing you to heal from an injury and move and use your shoulder without pain.

When it comes to diagnosing, repairing, and treating torn tendons and rotator cuffs, there is no better source for reliable information and procedures than within the Dignity Health network. Our orthopedic specialists are well-versed in many rotator cuff surgeries to help you get back to the activities you love.

Why it’s necessary

A torn rotator cuff weakens your shoulder to the point that may affect daily activities such as getting dressed become painful or difficult to do. Rotator cuff injuries are common, but not all of them need to be treated with surgery. Rotator cuff surgery is generally considered necessary if:

  • The tear is from a recent injury.
  • The tear is more than three centimeters long, and the surrounding tendon tissue is of good quality.
  • The tear has been causing pain for more than six months.
  • You can’t use your shoulder regularly.
  • Nonsurgical treatments, like physical therapy, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, or oral or injected corticosteroids, have not worked.

To determine whether you are a good candidate for surgery, your doctor will take a medical history, discuss your shoulder symptoms with you, and examine your shoulder. Your doctor will look for deformities and tender areas, assess your range of motion and strength, and also look into other potential problems with your shoulder joint.

Before surgery, your doctor will also use diagnostic tests such as x-rays or MRI scans to help confirm your diagnosis. X-rays are not the most helpful for soft tissue injuries such as rotator cuff tears but will show a bone spur if any are present. MRI scans better show soft tissue and can often give your doctor an idea of how long your shoulder has been torn.

The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.