Rotator Cuff Repair

The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that cover the shoulder, helping to hold the arm in the shoulder socket. The rotator cuff also helps with lifting and rotating the arm. Rotator cuff tears are among the most common causes of shoulder pain and disability. Though rotator cuff injuries often occur in athletes, non-athletes may also develop a rotator cuff tear during occupational requiring repetitive arm motions or sudden injuries.

If the rotator cuff is torn, surgery is typically recommended because the torn tendon will not grow back or heal on its own. Dr. Hanzlik has specialized experience with rotator cuff repair surgery, having completed a fellowship in arthroscopic surgery at Orthopedic Research of Virginia. There, he trained in minimally invasive techniques for rotator cuff repair. Today, rotator cuff surgery is a large part of Dr. Hanzlik’s practice.

Symptoms of a Rotator Cuff Tear

When a rotator cuff tear occurs with a sudden injury, like a fall, symptoms like shoulder pain and weakness are typically present immediately. However, the majority of rotator cuff tears develop slowly over time due to repetitive stress on the muscles and tendons, decreased blood supply, and bone spurs that rub against the rotators cuff. This is known as a degenerative rotator cuff tear.

With degenerative rotator cuff tears, symptoms may be mild at first and gradually get worse over time. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you may benefit from an evaluation with a specialist like Dr. Hanzlik:

  • Shoulder pain that is present even when at rest.
  • Pain at night, especially when lying on the affected shoulder.
  • Pain and/or weakness with certain arm movements, like lifting or rotating the arm.
  • A crackling sensation when moving the shoulder.

Initially, the symptoms of a degenerative rotator cuff tear may be managed with over-the-counter medications like aspirin or ibuprofen. Over time, these symptoms tend to get worse, and over-the-counter medications may no longer relieve them. At this point, rotator cuff repair surgery may be recommended to help relieve shoulder pain and improve shoulder strength. A torn rotator cuff will not regrow or heal on its own, so surgery is often necessary to address shoulder weakness.

Rotator Cuff Repair Surgery

Dr. Hanzlik performs all rotator cuff repair procedures at an outpatient surgery center, so patients are able to return home the same day. He uses a minimally invasive all-arthroscopic approach for rotator cuff repairs, which can help to reduce recovery times.

Dr. Hanzlik makes small, 1 centimeter incisions to complete the surgery. He uses a small camera called an arthroscope to view the rotator cuff through one of the incisions, rather than making a large incision to view the shoulder directly. He then makes additional 1-inch incisions to insert the operating instruments. Because the incisions are small, they typically result in less blood loss during surgery, less pain in the initial recovery period, and they heal more quickly than larger incisions.

Dr. Hanzlik specializes in graft augmentations for rotator cuff repair, and may recommend the use of a tendon graft for larger tears to help reconstruct the rotator cuff and strengthen the repair. He may also administer stem cell injections at the time of surgery, which can help the rotator cuff heal more quickly.

Recovering from Rotator Cuff Surgery

Patients return home the day of surgery, and are sent home in a sling. Patients are typically advised to wear this sling all of the time for at least the first few weeks, even while sleeping. The sling helps to immobilize the arm so that the tendon can heal.

After the initial immobilization and healing period, which typically takes at least 3 weeks, patients will begin working with a physical therapist to improve range of motion and strength in the shoulder. Participation in everyday activities, like driving, will depend on whether the dominant or non-dominant arm was operated on. Dr. Hanzlik will advise when it is safe to return to certain activities.

Full recovery from rotator cuff repair typically takes at least 3 full months. Until fully recovered, patients will need to avoid using the shoulder for physically-demanding activities, whether work or sports-related, to protect the newly-repaired rotator cuff.

Rotator Cuff Surgery in Oregon City & Tualatin, OR

Dr. Shane Hanzlik is fellowship trained in arthroscopic surgery, including rotator cuff surgery both with and without the use of tendon grafts. Using minimally invasive methods, his goal is to relieve pain and help restore strength and function of the rotator cuff. If you would like to schedule an evaluation with Dr. Hanzlik, please call our office at (503) 214-1101 or submit an appointment request via our convenient form.