Gene J. DeMorat, MD
Written By: Gene J. DeMorat, MD

The shoulder joint is capable of tremendous mobility to assist in the essential activities of everyday life. It relies upon a group of muscles, known as the rotator cuff, to ensure its function for overhead and lifting activities.

Unfortunately, the rotator cuff is commonly associated with injury. Such injuries may occur from a simple fall onto the shoulder or even from the accumulation of simple lifting events over our lifetime.

The most common symptoms are pain, weakness, and motion loss. Symptoms may develop suddenly or in a gradual onset. Symptoms that persist beyond a two week period, without signs of relief, should be evaluated by an orthopaedic surgeon.

An initial evaluation will consist of a physical examination and imaging studies, in the form of an x-ray and MRI. The information obtained will be used to determine the degree of damage to the rotator cuff and to help formulate the most successful treatment plan.

Depending on the degree of injury or response to conservative treatment, surgical intervention may be required in order to decrease pain and improve function.

Traditional rotator cuff repair is performed by direct visualization of the rotator cuff. This is performed through a three to four inch incision on the shoulder through the deltoid muscle.

Arthroscopic rotator cuff repair is a new surgical technique that has evolved over the last decade. Using this technique the rotator cuff is repaired through three to four one centimeter incisions on the shoulder.

Through these small incisions the rotator cuff is visualized using a camera, known as an arthroscope, and repaired using instruments as an extension of the surgeons hands.

This less invasive technique has many benefits. The smaller incisions produce less surgical scarring and damage to the deltoid muscle, thereby, limiting the risk of the muscle not regaining its full strength.

In addition, the damaged cuff can be better visualized, allowing for a more anatomic repair and the ability to repair previously unrepairable tears.

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