The shoulder is an amazing part of the body with a unique range of motion. A shoulder injury can be a big blow, particularly a rotator cuff tear. Imagine being unable to lift the forearm or move the shoulder due to pain. Orthopedic surgeons sometimes recommend arthroscopic surgery. But before going under the knife, here are key points to know about rotator cuff repair.
Dissecting the rotator cuff
The rotator cuff has four muscles and tendons covering the shoulder. The muscles are the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor and subscapularis. Together, the rotator cuff holds the arm and socket to the shoulder. The arms and shoulders rotate due to the elasticity of the rotator cuff.
How rotator cuff damage happens
The rotator cuff damages in two ways. A physical injury like a hard pull, or twist can tear the tendon. Examples are sports or grueling physical work. Athletes like pitchers, tennis players, and quarterbacks get rotator cuff injuries. The second way is degenerative. Old age or bone spurs weaken and damage the rotator cuff.
The painful reason for surgery
The tendons holding the muscles act like elastic bands. A partial tear causes pain, weakness or reduced motion. But a full tear means the tendon detaches from the shoulder, needing immediate repair. The tendon sometimes makes the sound of a pop or rip when the injury happens. For a full tear, surgeons typically recommend arthroscopy.
Arthroscopy to save the shoulder
Arthroscopy or arthroscopic surgery starts with an endoscope. Orthopedic surgeons can look at and repair joints using cameras and fiberoptic technology. Besides rotator cuffs, arthroscopy repairs elbows, knees, and even wrists. Arthroscopy reduces repair time, infections, and improves the accuracy of repair. More importantly, the surgery is minimally invasive meaning less blood loss and scarring.
The rotator cuff repair process
Arthroscopy reconnects the loose tendon to the shoulder. Surgeons insert an endoscope into the shoulder via an incision or portal to assess the damage. The surgeon then makes another portal opposite the endoscope. Through the portal, a hole drilled in the nearby Humerus bone secures the stitches. A pincer-like device pulls the tendon back into place, for stitching. Once the stitches are complete, the surgeon moves the arm to test the integrity of the stitches. Finally the surgeon removes the tools and stitches up the portals to complete the surgery.
The success of surgery
With a success rate of 90%, the surgery effectively restores tears. Surgeries, minimally invasive or not, poses risks. Risks include infection of the surgery site, bleeding, or an allergic reaction to anesthesia. Surgery will bring relief, but patients need extensive time to recover.