Munson Health
Related Information
Rotator Cuff Repair

Back to Document

by Keel JC

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

Your doctor may do the following:
Before this procedure, you will need to:
  • Arrange for help at home while you recover
  • Talk to your doctor about any medications, herbs, or supplements you are taking
  • Talk to your doctor about any allergies you have
  • Ask your doctor about assisted devices you will need
  • Arrange for someone to drive you home after the procedure
You may need to stop taking some medications up to one week before the procedure. Medications that may need to be stopped may include:
  • Aspirin or other anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen or naproxen
  • Blood-thinning drugs, such as warfarin
  • Anti-platelet drugs, such as clopidogrel
Do not eat or drink anything after midnight the day before your procedure, unless told otherwise by your doctor.


General anesthesia is typically used. You will be asleep during the procedure.

Description of Procedure

There are two methods used to perform a rotator cuff repair:
Open Surgery
The doctor will make a cut in the skin over the shoulder. The torn muscle will be repaired or tendon repaired and reattached and/or anchored with stitches. The incision will then be closed with stitches or staples.
Arthroscopic Surgery
A few small incisions will be made in the shoulder. A narrow tool called an arthroscope will be inserted through the incision. The scope has a tiny camera to allow the doctor to see inside. Other small instruments will be inserted through the other incisions. The doctor will use these tools to repair the tendon or muscle.
After either procedure, the incisions will be bandaged. Your arm will be placed in a sling or brace to immobilize the joint.

How Long Will It Take?

About 1½ to 2 hours

How Much Will It Hurt?

Anesthesia prevents pain during the procedure. You may have some discomfort immediately after. Ask your doctor about medication to help with the pain.

Average Hospital Stay

You may be able to go home the same day. Some may need to stay in the hospital for one day.

Post-procedure Care

At the Care Center
Right after the procedure, you may be given medication, such as:
  • Pain medication
  • Antibiotics to prevent infection
  • Medication that prevents blood clots
At Home
When you return home, take these steps:
When you return home, take these steps:
  • Use ice to reduce swelling after the surgery.
  • Take the full doses of all medications prescribed.
  • Keep the bandage clean and dry at all times.
  • Ask your doctor about when it is safe to shower, bathe, or soak in water.
  • Do not use the arm until instructed. Wear the sling or brace as directed.
  • Unless your job requires heavy lifting, you can usually return to work within a few days after the surgery.
  • Follow instructions for physical therapy. Therapy is essential to regain shoulder strength and range of motion.
  • Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions .
The rotator cuff will take several months to heal. It may take some time before you can raise your arm above your shoulder. It may be up to one year before you can hold your arm above your head and do work with reasonable strength. An aggressive and consistent physical therapy and exercise program is the key to a faster recovery.

RESOURCES – American Academy of Family Physicians

American College of Sports Medicine



Public Health Agency of Canada

Canadian Physiotherapy Association



Exercise and shoulder pain. American College of Sports Medicine website. Available at: Accessed May 3, 2013.

Rotator cuff repair. John Hopkins Medicine website. Available at:,P07682/. Accessed May 3, 2013.

Rotator cuff surgery discharge instructions. John Hopkins Medicine website. Available at: Published May 7, 2010. Accessed May 3, 2013.

Rotator cuff tear. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated January 17, 2013. Accessed February 26, 2014.

Rotator cuff tears: surgical treatment options. American Academy of Orothopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: Updated May 2011. Accessed May 3, 2013.

6/2/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance. Mills E, Eyawo O, et al. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2011;124(2):144-154.e8.


Revision Information