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Has anyone had rotator cuff repair surgery?

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    Has anyone had rotator cuff repair surgery?

    If so, what could I expect?

    I posted a couple months back that my shoulder was getting pretty bad, and despite all attempts to be careful moving, etc, etc it's just hurting all the time no matter how I lie down. Throbbing pain now extends much of the way down my bicep, and if I'm not very careful and move my shoulder the wrong way I'll have an explosion of pain and my arm will be practically useless for the next hour. As it is I can't raise my elbow above my shoulder w/o pain, extending my arm all the forward and around my back are likewise nearly impossible. Its often easier to reach over with my left hand, for example.

    Hopefully I might be able to avoid surgery, but I have to admit it seems unlikely. But first I'll have to see the doc about it soon as I can get an appointment. And being as it's at the public health care clinic, with no insurance, etc etc - I don't even know if they might do anything about it in the first place. But I'll just have to find out.

    But if you had a repair done, how did they go about evaluating you, and if surgery was necessary, what did they do? What should I expect if anything?

    btw, fyi - I don't have an SCI, but way overweight and I have pretty bad neuropathy from diabetes. Also super high blood pressure too. Any questions please ask! Thanks!

    Last edited by Tom; 8 Jul 2008, 5:53 AM.

    No one? Could this be moved to the pain forum then, perhaps better luck there? thanks!



      Sometimes I forget we are not the pain forum but I will try & move it. But you need to see a doctor. uNTI THEN,-Rest, Nsaids, physical therapy and if it doesn't get better you need to see a shoulder speciaist bu tit is major surgery and takes a long time to get back the function and recover.

      The SCI-Nurses are advanced practice nurses specializing in SCI/D care. They are available to answer questions, provide education, and make suggestions which you should always discuss with your physician/primary health care provider before implementing. Medical diagnosis is not provided, nor do the SCI-Nurses provide nursing or medical care through their responses on the CareCure forums.


        Tom, I can't help you but I'm curious too. Mine's not so much the rotator cuff (maybe a small tear there), but mostly bone spurs digging into the bursa and keeping it inflamed. The doc also wanted to remove the AC joint. I was scheduled for the surgery several months ago, then chickened out and so far it's settled down so I think I made the right choice for the time being.


          I've had rotator cuff surgery on both shoulders so I'll share my experiences.

          My right shoulder was first about 6 years ago. I'm right handed, so I guess it makes sense I was affected by the right shoulder first. I had an MRI which diagnosed the tear and I also had a bone spur which aggravated the injury. The doctor told me he would first insert a scope to see the tear, then he'd make an incision to actually do the repair. He "shaved off" part of my clavicle to remove the bone spur and then stitched up the tear.

          I won't kid you about the pain which was very bad right after the surgery. Take any pain medicine they offer! For about 3 to 4 days I actually regretted having it done! But after a week when the pain really subsided more my mood improved. Sitting up I had to wear a sling for awhile. I asked for a hospital bed with a trapeze overhead so I could make use of my one good arm and probably the biggest change was moving into a power chair after using only a manual for 30 years.

          I had to take 6 weeks off from work and started PT right after that. I did the exercises and workouts they taught me religiously. These involved some simple isometrics and then work with Therabands for resistance. I was able to do my normal transfers pretty much pain free after about 3 or 4 months and I was completely back to normal after about 9 months.

          Just prior to the surgery I switched to a foley catheter instead if intermittent because I figured it would be kind of awkward. I was still able to do my own bowel program by laying on my right side and using my left hand. I know, TMI...
          After the first week I was able to remove the foley and use my right hand enough to cath myself.

          I'm glad I had it done.

          My left shoulder was repaired in Feb '07. This MRI showed there was no bone spur, but the tear was HUGE compared to the right shoulder. I guess I waited too long to have the repair. My first Surgeon had moved away, so I found another specialist I liked. He actually did the entire repair with a scope and never made the same big incision as the first Doc. He told me I'd be in surgery about 2 to 2.5 hours, but the tear was so bad the operation lasted 5 hours. He said it was the worst tear he'd ever tried to repair. I say that to caution you from waiting too long. Unless you just have no choice, don't wait.

          Anyway, this time I already knew I wanted the foley temporarily, the hospital bed, trapeze, and I was still using my powerchair. But this time I had more problems doing my bowel program. I couldn't really do it by laying in my left side and use my right hand, because of a really bad curve in my spine. It's hard to explain, but it just didn't work. This time the trapeze didn't help me as much either for some reason, so I had to have help transferring with a hoyer lift. I had far more difficulty MENTALLY this time than the first. I guess I was feeling my age and physically fragile and it all just got to me. I'm still taking Lexapro today.

          But the surgery this time was a breeze! He had to insert the scope into 4 different areas of my shoulder, but never needed an incision. I didn't even need an aspirin for pain afterwards! I had to be extra careful to not use my left arm because there wasn't any pain to remind me. I went the same therapy, but since this repair was so large and complicated, My doc wants to scope me again to see what's left to repair and how it's healed. That's because I still have trouble lifting my arm straight up and moving certain directions. My mobility and arm function are at least a thousand times better than with the constant pain I had, so I have no regrets. I'm having trouble submitting to the add'l surgery to complete the repair, because I can function really well the way it is now. I'll do it someday, but not right now...

          I can give more details if you like or if you have any questions.

          I hope this helps.



            I had rotator cuff surgery in November 2005. I was experiencing pain during night that would wake me up. Doctor said I had bursitis. After x-rays and unsuccessful therapy I had an MRI that showed I had bone spurs causing the bursitis and a surprise, two torn rotator cuff tendons. According to the strength test by the therapist and doctor I had no symptoms of a torn rotator cuff. Then had the surgery to repair the torn tendons and remove the spurs. All didn’t go as planned, the tears in the rotator were irreparable, apparently shredded by the bone spurs and the two tendons were removed; surgeon referred to it as a debridement. The surgeon performed a subscapularis transfer; he moved the subscapularis tendon to replace the two torn tendons. Recovery was painful, took five months before I had the strength perform transfers unassisted. I was pain free for about a year. Now the pain in the middle of the night has returned. It’s not as severe as it was and not as often, maybe one or two nights a week. I regained about 90% function, can’t rotate my arm away from my body as far as I could. I’m a c5-6 incomplete 33 years post and now use a power chair almost 100 percent to reduce the stress on my shoulders. Getting old sucks.

            Google shoulder impingement, bursitis, torn rotator cuff, rotator cuff surgery, etc. for more information.

            Hope you only have bursitis and it can be repaired through laparoscopic procedure.

            Good luck.


              Hey guys, thanks for the info. I had Googled for some info of course but most of the info was fairly generic and I had wanted some more anectodal comments, particularly what to expect recovery wise.

              Hopefully all it needs is to be scoped out, rather than a more extensive open repair. It's very clear I have considerable inflammation - the area around the end of my collarbone is plainly swollen, and as I've mentioned its relentlessly painful to one extent or another. I can't reach behind my back at all, cant raise my elbow above the shoulder, much less over my head, can't reach forward. I'd guess I have only about 40-50% of normal range of motion at best. Really about the only thing I can do is write, use the computer mouse, and so long as Im very careful, I can carry a modest amount of weight like a couple grocery sacks. Suprisingly, I was able to ride dirt bikes at a friend's party last weekend without any problem. But any kind of throwing motion, or lifting (for example, pushing off an arm rest) and I'm asking for it. Thankfully I'm highly ambidextrous and can do just about anything left-handed except for writing.

              Its really an easy decision as far as surgery/no surgery goes. Couple other folks I've talked to who've not had surgery in the hopes of it going away still have problems as bad as ever. Shoulders just don't heal by themselves very well. Between a big bill I can't pay and permanent loss of motion and pain....well, I'll take the bill and work on it. You have to have a good shoulder to be able to work anyway, and I'm much too young and active to drag a half-useless arm around.

              I'll let ya folks know how it turns out

              Last edited by Tom; 13 Jul 2008, 7:19 AM.


                My mom had the surgery done (scope) and didn't regret it, although there was a complication and she had to have another surgery a month after the first. They said that happens sometimes, so keep that in mind.


                  big thing here,until you actually have the MRI done,honestly,you really don;t know for certain just how really bad things can actually be in there. between the ROMS and the MRI that gets done,that is what detemines how much real damage there is and what needs to be repaired.

                  i had been dealing with my right shoulder for many years off and on(i lifted wieghts back in oh,89?felt 'something give' and had little flare ups from time to time) but everything kind of hit the fan for me this past nov when all i did was go to lift my purse off the top of my fridge on morning. i lifted up and felt knife jabs just attack around my shoulder at the top and had to drop the purse. that was the last piece of my supraspinatus completely tearing in half. that supra(this is the one that runs along the top from the base of your neck out to the top of the shoulder)is the most commonly involved or torn tendon that patients seem to do the most according to my wonderful ortho guy. rotator cuff tears are also a very very common type of injury.

                  from the way you are describing your ROMS right now,it really DOES need to have an MRI just to really see what level of damage you actually have in there. tho most orthos can tell ALOT by just listening to the patient describe what they can and cannot do and doing the ROMS with them as well,that MRI really will tell the bigger story about what IS going on inside your shoulder/rotator cuff area. i had no idea my overall damage was as extensive as it was. and the longer you wait,it DOES matter as far as the extent of damage and how long it will take to fully heal(and post op pain too). you also have to make darn certain to DO PT with this surgery almost immeditately post op (and then the more hands on PT a few weeks later)or you risk ending up with a condition called frozen shoulder. trust me,you don;t want that either. if this is left not fixed,that frozen shoulder can also occur since you are no longer able to simply move into all the normal ROMS that this particular joint(the biggest and most movable in all ways joint we have in our bodies)just moves. it will freeze up on you and thats a whole nother different surgery to get it unlocked from posistion.

                  the sooner you get this attended to and fixed the better off you will be,believe me. i just had mine done this past feb and things are getting back to more of a normal for me now. i am still in PT but this has been a combo of rehab PT for the shoulder along with myofascial release and craniosacral therepy that i was already getting from this particular PT person to help with my other pain. so my PT has been a bit different and longer lasting. yours would be very different,but you DO need that specific type of PT after this surgery in order to get that jopint moving properly again for you. hands on PT DOES matter with this particular surgery.

                  i would just start this whole process with that MRI which any ortho is going to actually need in order to ascess your level of damage and to plan your surgery. but i would not wait any longer since from what you have described really sounds like some level of tear within that supra,just like mine was. i also had a partial tear in the tendon right underneath that supra too. there turned out to be five seperate things my ortho needed to actually do with my shoulder surgey. still amazes me at the extent of my real damage and that i was running on a shred of tendon for quite a long time. the surrounding muslce will tend to compensate for the tendon damage for a while but eventually it will take its toll and you WILL feel it.

                  i do wish you luck with this,but DO get this looked into as soon as possible to try and avoid any permanent loss of ROMS,or even developing a chronic pain type of situation from this. please keep us posted on all things. if you have any specific questions about this i am more than willing to try and answer them. good luck,marcia


                    Rotator cuff surgery recovery

                    If you have a repair that can be made, then please have it done, because if your tear becomes worse, the success of repair diminishes.

                    I have had many surgeries due to complications of lupus, arthritis, Raynaud's syndrome, and medication I take to try to control the pain and physical damage these diseases wreak on my tissues and organs.

                    None of the recovery from those came close to the long first month of recovery from orthroscopic rotator cuff surgery of a moderate tear I sustained in my left arm - from lifting a tote bag of "yarn" - yes, nothing heavy or no wrestling matches.

                    I recommend renting or purchasing an OrthoCool, which is a little cooler you fill with ice and water, attached to a pump that supplies cold water to a wrap that you place on your wound. The cold water lasts for about 8 hours, and is the only thing that helped supress the pain in the first 2 weeks to a level that was bearable. I could wear it while I slept (or tried to sleep), and during the day. It was cold, believe me, so I had to dress like an Eskimo at night. And propping up in bed with pillows, or sleeping in a recliner, is a MUST. Laying flat in bed is extremely uncomfortable for the first month or two.

                    Physical therapy - PLEASE do the exercises they give you, as this helps your recovery immensely.

                    I was 3 months along towards my rehabilitation (4 months of PT), when I fell in a coffee shop, and wrenched my "new" shoulder to avoid landing on it when I fell. I am awaiting the MRI results to determine if I re-injured my repair or not, because it did cause me new pain and decreased motion, but my pain is still less than it was before surgery. Of course the retailer doesn't want to pay for anything, but I am happy I am alive.

                    Good luck, and rest the first month and don't over work your other arm. You will need lots of help.

                    Take care.


                      Well, I put in for Medicaid, and soon as that goes thru (if it does) I will be asking my doctor about a referral for an MRI and take it from there.

                      I too wish I had tried to take steps to get it repaired, or at least evaluated, several months ago - the pain is constant, sleep is very difficult, ROM is very limited, and my collarbone looks like it married a damned tennis ball on top

                      Nothing like Christopher's infamous elbow, but quite unnatural nonetheless. It's also my right arm, so everything is just that much more difficult. I'll let you folks know how it goes. At least on the bright side - chicks REALLY dig shoulder scars, I'm told



                        How is it going?

                        I was reading your post, and thought I would respond.
                        I am a 47yr old nurse and I had arthroscopic surgery on my left shoulder 3 weeks ago. I had a subacromial decompression, distal clavicle resection, and extensive debridement of the labrum. According to the MRI I had a huge bone "hook", and it was fraying the tendon. i TRIED PT, AND CORTISONE INJECTIONS, AND THEY WERE NOT WORKING, SO i OPTED FOR SURGERY. WAS SCARED TO DEATH!!!! Especially of the nerve block, but I thank god for that now, cause it lasted for 24 hours, so that was one day less of pain! It was painful after surgery, but the meds and ice helped greatly. I started PT twice weekly 3 days after surgery, and 3 times daily everyday at home. It's a pain in the butt, and sometimes I don't want to do it, but I do, and it has helped. I can now raise my arm over my head and out to the side. It is still quite weak, but they haven't started any weight bearing exercises for strengthening yet. I see the Doc next week for my one month check. I just started sleeping back in the bed this week, was sick of the recliner. Just can't roll on that side. It is still painful, don't get me wrong, especially when reaching, and getting dressed is still hard. Driving bothers me as well, but I do it. I understand the money issue, and that is hard. I was layed off of my job 3 days before my surgery. I don't know how long before I can work, I know I could'nt now, not at full capacity. Just wanted you to know that I don't regret having the surgery in the least, the pain I had prior to surgery is gone, so hopefully they fixed it.
                        Good luck to you, and feel free to write it you want, it's nice to talk to someone with the same type of problem


                          To person who fell in coffee shop

                          If I were you, I would see an attorney. Obviously the coffee shop doesn't want to pay, but THEY ARE LIABLE! And, they know it! They're hoping people like yourself who say "I'm just glad to be moving, etc." will feel precisely that way. They also hope you just go away. I know first-hand because I fell in front of a store on an icy sidewalk which the retailer failed to clear off and keep safe for all customers coming and going. Since that fall, over a year ago, I've had 4 rotator cuff surgeries, 2 on each side and no longer have use of my right arm. Long story short, my first surgeon left me with an arm which I can no longer use; i.e., deltoid muscle atryphied (died and fell down my arm) and my right shoulder rotator cuff also went the same way. My life has been changed forever! I am disfigured beyond belief all because I fell on ice and subsequently had a horrible surgeon who didn't have the good judgment to refer me on to a shoulder specialist. At this point, I barely have use of my left arm as well and am looking at yet another surgery, rotator cuff repair of a much larger tear than what was previously thought in September. This will take place in January and hopefully I will regain some use to my left arm. I now see the best shoulder specialist in the Midwest, who is also the team doctor for the MN Twins. I trust that he will give me back some of my life. In closing, I would tell anyone who has taken a fall on private (or even public), property to consult with an attorney. We did and are so glad we made the decision early on. We've gone through too much due to the negligence of others to have to deal with insurance companies, bill collectors, etc. We leave all that to our attorney. Good luck!