Arthroscopic Rotator Cuff Repair
A rotator cuff tear is best viewed on magnetic resonance imaging. Symptomatic relief may be obtained with conservative treatments – rest, shoulder sling, pain medications, steroidal injections and certain exercises. However, surgery is required to fix the tendon back to the shoulder bone.
Surgery to repair the rotator cuff has traditionally been done through a large shoulder incision, about 6-10 cm long, and the muscle over the rotator cuff is separated. Newer, advanced surgical techniques have been developed to minimise pain and recovery time. Arthroscopic rotator cuff repair is a minimally invasive surgery performed through tiny incisions, about 1 cm each, with an arthroscope.
The arthroscope is a small fibre-optic viewing instrument made up of a tiny lens, light source and video camera. The surgical instruments used in arthroscopic surgery are very small (only 3 or 4 mm in diameter) but appear much larger when viewed through an arthroscope.
The television camera attached to the arthroscope displays the image of the joint on a television screen, allowing the surgeon to look throughout the shoulder at the cartilage, ligaments and the rotator cuff. The surgeon can determine the amount or type of injury, and then repair or correct the problem.
The benefits of arthroscopy compared to the alternative, open shoulder surgery, include:
- Smaller incisions
- Minimal soft tissue trauma
- Less pain
- Faster healing time
- Lower infection rate
- Less scarring
- Earlier mobilisation
- Usually performed as outpatient day surgery