Rotator cuff repair

This procedure is carried out when the tendon is torn, and all non-operative treatments have failed.

The Operation 

The operation is done by ‘keyhole surgery’; usually through 3-4 puncture wounds. The operation involves inserting anchors (screws) into the bone. These have sutures coming from them which are passed through the torn tendon and tied to repair the tear.

General Advice

You will usually be in hospital either for a day or overnight. The operation is performed under general anaesthetic and a nerve block in your neck or upper chest that will make your arm numb for 8-12 hours after surgery. This is for post-operative pain relief. After this the shoulder may well be sore and you will be given painkillers to help this. Ice packs may also help reduce pain.

You will return from theatre wearing a sling. This will be on for 3-6 weeks depending on the size of the tear.

A doctor/physiotherapist will see you prior to discharge and you will be taught exercises to do and given further advice to guide you through your recovery.


As with all surgery there is a risk of some complications. These are rare, but you should be aware of them before your operation. They include:

  • Complications relating to the anaesthetic.
  • Infection.
  • Injury to the nerves or blood vessels around the shoulder.
  • Prolonged stiffness and or pain.
  • Failure to achieve successful result.
  • A re tear and need to redo the surgery.

What to expect afterwards


A nerve block is usually used during the surgery. This means that immediately after the operation the shoulder and arm often feel completely numb. This may last for a few hours. After this the shoulder may well be sore and you will be given painkillers to help this whilst in hospital. These can be continued after you are discharged home. Ice packs may also help reduce pain. Wrap crushed ice or frozen peas in a damp, cold cloth and place on the shoulder for up to 15 minutes.


You will return from theatre wearing a sling. The surgeon/physiotherapist will advise you on how long you are to continue wearing the sling.


This keyhole operation is usually done through two 5mm puncture wounds. There may be stitches or small sticking plaster strips over the wounds. These should be kept dry until healed. This usually takes 10 to 14 days.


You will not be able to drive for the duration of the sling and a couple of weeks afterwards. Your surgeon will confirm when you may begin.


This will depend on your occupation. You will need to discuss this with your surgeon.


Your physiotherapist and surgeon will advise you when it is safe to resume your leisure activities.


An appointment will be made for you to be reviewed at 2 weeks.


You may well be expected to perform the following exercises when you leave hospital. Please check with your physiotherapist before commencing.