Rotator Cuff Surgery and Arthroscopy

The rotator cuff is the name given to four muscle tendons around your shoulder which help move the shoulder in different directions, including rotation and elevation. As we get older, these tendons can be injured through trauma or just general decline through ‘wear and tear’.

Once damaged, these tendons struggle to function correctly, leading to pain and weakness and decline in function and day-to-day living. Shoulder arthroscopy is the name given to any procedure involving a camera in the shoulder joint. Some people require arthroscopy when the rotator cuff is not damaged but when it is necessary to be removed and damaged cartilage taken out or, to inspect the surface of the shoulder joint if suffering from osteoarthritis.

What Are The Benefits of Rotator Cuff Surgery?

Much like any other joint-related surgical option, those suffering from conditions that require rotator cuff surgery may find they experience a variety of advantages and positive outcomes. When it comes to rotator cuff surgery, in particular, benefits include:

  • Good success rate at relieving pain
  • Good success rate at helping to restore function if rotator cuff weakness is the cause
  • Increase in active range of movement
  • Better able to manage daily activities

Types of Rotator Cuff Surgery and Arthroscopy

Surgery can relieve your pain and restore function to your shoulder, but there are some specific types of surgery to consider and to be aware of.

  • Arthroscopic repair: After making one or two tiny cuts in the skin, a surgeon will insert a tiny camera called an arthroscope and remarkable, lean tools into the shoulder. These will let them see which parts of the rotator cuff are damaged and how to fix them best.
  • Open tendon repair: This surgery has been around for a long time. It was the first technique used to repair the rotator cuff. If there is a very large or complex tear, a surgeon may choose this method.

Symptoms of Rotator Cuff Injury

The pain usually associated with a rotator cuff and arthroscopy injury may be:

  • Described as a dull ache deep in the shoulder
  • Disturb sleep
  • Make it difficult to comb your hair or reach behind your back
  • Accompanied by arm weakness

Rotator Cuff Surgery and Arthroscopy Procedure Explained

This procedure is usually done under general anaesthetic, with a local anaesthetic injected to make patients more comfortable. An arthroscopic tendon repair is done through small incisions and a camera. The tendons are inspected and repaired using anchors and sutures (stitches) if required. If it is an arthroscopy, the surgeon may use small shavers to remove offending cartilage or bony lumps that may cause pain or impingement.

Finally, the patient will be given a bandage and a sling for 2 weeks and an exercise rehabilitation programme.

Risks of Rotator Cuff Surgery

Rotator cuff surgery requires patients to e put under a form of anaesthetic and therefore, as a form of surgery does come with some risks which patients should discuss with their surgeon before undergoing surgery:

  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Damage to nerves leading to weakness or change/loss of sensation
  • Risk of ongoing deficiency leading to weakness or change/loss of sensation
  • Risk of continued weakness and tendon damage
  • Risk of re-tear of tendon
  • Stiffness of shoulder

How Much Does Rotator Cuff Surgery Cost?

  1. Rotator cuff surgery, on average, costs around £5,000-£7,500 when done privately in the UK. Arthroscopy will cost less but giving a set price may be difficult, depending on findings, though it is likely to cost around £2,000. 
  2. On the NHS, the waiting time for shoulder replacement surgery has generally been a minimum of 6 months, but this has increased significantly due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
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