Understanding the Basics Behind Rotator Cuff Repair
What is Rotator Cuff Repair?
One of the most common causes of shoulder pain is rotator cuff damage. This can happen to anyone, whether you’re an athlete of any level, took a tough fall, or simply overworked your shoulder through various activities.
Our experienced orthopedic shoulder physicians at Kansas City Orthopedic Alliance have repaired thousands of rotator cuffs for our patients. We have the knowledge to deliver lasting results from rotator cuff repair in Kansas City.
After your initial examination with a KCOA physician, we will recommend the best treatment for your needs. Our practitioners provide the comprehensive care you need so you can return to the activities you enjoy.
Common symptoms that may require a rotator cuff repair include:
- Reduced movement or pain when moving your shoulder
- Shoulder or upper arm weakness
- Numb or tingling sensations in your arms
- Burning sensation in your shoulder or arms
- Completely immobile or “locked” joint
Kansas City Orthopedic Alliance Shoulder Injuries Assessment
Assessing the Injury
Finding the right shoulder treatment in Kansas City starts with an assessment.
Finding the right shoulder treatment starts with an assessment. You can think of shoulder pain as a spectrum, with some instances being more severe than others. The KCOA orthopedic specialists always focus on each individual patient and their concerns before creating a treatment plan.
Therefore, during your initial appointment, we will often ask questions such as:
- Does your pain currently limit you or your activities?
- Has your pain progressed or worsened recently?
- Have you experienced any locking in your shoulder or an inability to rotate your arm?
- Have you noticed any change in your symptoms that has made it more challenging to function?
- What are your lifestyle goals?
- How has pain affected those goals?
From there, we can decide whether shoulder arthroscopy will align best with your needs and lifestyle goals. After a proper assessment, we often begin with a physical examination to help determine the origin point of your pain. In some cases, advanced testing may be required for a full diagnosis.
Also called radiographs, an X-ray captures a picture of the bones comprising the shoulder. Orthopedic physicians may order an X-ray to rule out the possibility of a fracture (broken bone), osteoarthritis, or other bone-related condition.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
MRI captures images of muscles, bones, ligaments, and tendons to help provide information other tests can’t detail. During an MRI, you will lie on a table that slides into a tube-shaped scanner. The machine creates a magnetic field around you, using pulsed radio waves to form the MRI images.
Electromyograms (EMG) and Nerve Conduction Studies
Our board-certified physiatrists utilize electromyograms (EMGs) and nerve conduction studies to help determine whether nerves and muscles respond properly to stimuli. The EMG measures the electrical activity of your muscles at rest and in motion, while nerve conduction studies determine how fast and effectively your nerves and muscles receive electrical signals.
Establishing a Care Plan
Based on the results of your interview, examination, and imaging studies, you can expect a custom care plan catered specifically to you.
Many people believe it’s best to wait until pain becomes severe, leading them to “put off” or delay treatments.
If you are in constant discomfort, have shooting or stabbing pains, have limited range of motion, or an inability to perform your daily activities, rotator cuff repair may be right for you.
New technologies allow patients with shoulder pain to fully recover and enjoy the benefits of a more functional, pain-free lifestyle.
Prior to surgery, you will typically receive at least 2 phone calls:
- A hospital registration representative will call to gather insurance and other personal information.
- A registered nurse will call to review your health history and medication information.
Dependent on your health history, your physician may require:
- Pre-surgical laboratory tests
- Primary care clearance
Pre-operative instructions will vary depending on your physician and the location of your surgery.
Always check with your physician prior to surgery for their specific instructions.
Most physicians require that patients do not eat or drink after midnight prior to surgery.
Additionally, you will need a designated family member or friend to drive you home on the day you are released from the hospital. Surgical patients cannot drive themselves home.
Day of Surgery
If you schedule your surgery with a KCOA physician, you can expect the following on surgery day:
- A receptionist will check you in at the hospital registration desk.
- A nurse will take you back and prepare you for surgery. They will start an IV, prepare the surgical site, and review your medical history and medications.
- Your surgeon and anesthesiologist will visit with you prior to your operation.
- The surgical team will take you to the operation suite for surgery.
How it Works
One method we can use for rotator cuff repair is a shoulder arthroscopy. Shoulder arthroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure that allows surgeons to see inside the joint. A small tube with a camera is inserted through a minor incision, allowing the surgeon to view the structures of the joint and execute a repair.
While arthroscopy is now the most common methodology for performing rotator cuff repairs, there are instances when a more “open” approach is necessary to visualize the structures and repair the damaged tissue.
All of these options will be discussed with the patient prior to performing any type of repair.
During your shoulder arthroscopy for rotator cuff repair in Kansas City, you will remain under general anesthesia. After creating a small incision, the surgeon inserts a tiny camera (arthroscope) into the shoulder joint, giving them a clear guide for the surgical instruments. Saline-based fluid flows through the arthroscope to keep the image clear and bleeding minimal.
After assessing the injury and condition, your surgeon will begin the repair. Shoulder arthroscopy gives access to many repair options, like repairing the rotator cuff and labrum, smoothing the surrounding cartilage, removing inflamed tissue, and reshaping joints to prevent recurring injuries.
After your surgery, you will remain in the recovery room before being discharged. Our experienced clinical team will monitor you during this recovery and provide pain relief medication, if needed.
Repairing a rotator cuff is a significant procedure which often needs a few weeks to a few months for your shoulder to fully recover.
Because of its proximity to the head and neck and the concentration of nerve endings, shoulder surgeries can cause quite a bit of discomfort. Therefore, after surgery, the shoulder is often very sore, achy, and painful.
This is expected. Keep in mind, the shoulder joint is more complicated than the knee due to its structure and mobility, which is why recovery usually takes longer. Most people are in a sling for at least a month, but for more severe cases, it may be extended to 2 months
What to Expect
As time passes, you will gradually notice an improvement for up to a year. To prevent further injuries, it’s important to maintain good posture.
To prevent further injuries, it’s important to maintain good posture and ensure that your shoulder is in good position relative to your scapula. You should also focus on core strength, and promote healthy mobility of the shoulder.
We recommend regular exercise, eating a balanced diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and monitoring your blood sugar levels if you’re diabetic.
Staying active and following the instructions of your providers are the keys to a successful recovery from a rotator cuff repair.
Causes of Shoulder Pain
The body has different kinds of joints, and they all face different challenges. The shoulder is a “ball-in-socket” joint, meaning it’s composed of a ball-like structure that moves inside a depression in the bone to allow for rotational movements. The ball-shaped head of your humerus (upper arm bone) that fits into the glenoid cavity in the scapula (shoulder blade) creates the shoulder joint.
In most instances, pain in your shoulder doesn’t come from these bones unless a fracture is present. Pain generators in the shoulder include disruptions to muscles, ligaments, cartilage, and tendons that surround and support this joint.
Surgery, even minimally invasive ones like shoulder arthroscopy, isn’t necessarily the first choice. Kansas City Orthopedic Alliance physicians prefer a more conservative approach to treatment, so we will typically exhaust all non-surgical options before recommending surgery. Non-surgical treatments for shoulder injuries include:
- Physical Therapy – Movement can actually reduce pain and encourage healing in the shoulder, as movement increases circulation in the joint, supplying oxygen and other nutrients that support joint health and function.
Medications – Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as Advil) or prescription medications. Especially with NSAIDs, you should always talk to your doctor to ensure they are the right treatment for you.
Injections – Cortisone injections can help reduce inflammation in the shoulder and can even provide additional insight into the cause of your shoulder pain. The amount of relief from an injection varies by patient, but often in combination with physical therapy, patients can experience significant improvements in their function.
Regenerative Medicines – Regenerative medicines like stem cell injections or platelet-rich plasma can help nourish worn or damaged tissue. This option works best if you have mild-to-moderate shoulder pain.
Frequently Asked Questions
Kansas City Orthopedic Alliance is here to help.
Our care is personal. Our team is knowledgeable. And we’re more available than ever.
With access to board-certified specialists across Kansas City, we have the tools to meet almost every musculoskeletal condition.
Overland Park, Kansas10777 Nall Ave Suite 300 Overland Park, KS 66211
Leawood, Kansas3651 College Blvd. Leawood, KS 66211
Kansas City, MissouriSaint Luke's Medical Plaza #1 4320 Wornall Rd., Ste. 610 Kansas City, MO 64111
Belton, MissouriBelton Regional Campus 17067 S Outer Rd #301 Belton, MO 64012
Merriam, Kansas7450 W. Frontage Rd Merriam, KS 66203
Some of the best doctors
I have been going to the doctors here for many things and for many years. They have some of the best doctors and surgeons around and when you need something repaired one of the doctors there who’s speciality it is will have your x-rays and MRIs scheduled and the hospital setup in only a few days. They explain everything you should know and so you can understand it and best of all you don’t have to wait a week to a month for an appointment.
Dr Van Den Berghe and his RNP Shannon are on top of the profession. Great care Great communication. All around great experience
Shannon was amazing! She took the time give me options and explained everything to great detail. She is also very skilled. Shoulder injection with almost no discomfort!
Stephanie took great care in explaining my son’s injury and future implications. I feel like we fully understood the injury and what he needed to do to allow it to heal. I would definitely recommend Stephanie!
I am impressed!