Rotator cuff tears are a common injury in adults–in fact, over 2 million cases of these injuries are diagnosed in the US annually. These injuries are often a source of disability, pain, and weakness. Rotator cuff repair surgery can be a great solution, but it’s not necessarily the correct–or most effective–option for every case. Read on to learn more about some of the deciding factors on what makes a patient a strong candidate for this course of treatment.
Who It’s Best For
Rotator cuff tears can vary greatly in severity and size, and can be caused by trauma, overuse, or just aging. Some can heal with minimum treatment. When considering surgical intervention, it’s always very important to weigh the potential risks against the rewards. Here’s some of what goes into determining whether a patient has a strong chance of benefiting from rotator cuff repair surgery:
- Time After Injury: Rotator cuff repair surgery for damage caused by acute injury tends to be most effective when performed soon after the injury that caused the tear. This is one reason it’s essential to seek medical attention ASAP if you suspect you have a rotator cuff tear–if it’s an injury that could benefit from surgery, you’ll want to have surgery within the first few weeks of sustaining the damage.
- Type of Injury: Surgery isn’t ideal for very large tears, or cases of thinning tendons.
- Failure To Improve With Conservative Treatments: In many cases (especially when the damage isn’t due to acute injury), patients are first prescribed physical therapy to help strengthen the shoulder and allow the damage to heal. If this treatment isn’t effective within 3-6 months, surgery becomes a more serious option.
- Age And Activity Level: Surgery can take a toll. For the elderly or those in poor health, rotator cuff surgery usually presents more risks than rewards, and isn’t a viable option. Rotator cuff repair surgery offers to greatest potential to those who are active, require full shoulder function and strength for their job, and for the young.
- Ability And Willingness to Commit To Rehabilitation: The success of rotator cuff repair surgery hinges on the patient’s adherence to post-surgical rehabilitation. A strong candidate for the surgery should be in adequate shape for surgery and physical therapy. They should also express that they understand the surgery will not be effective without rehabilitation, and that they are committed to the rehabilitation process.
If you are experienced severe shoulder weakness, or have been diagnosed with a possible rotator cuff injury and aren’t sure how to proceed, we encourage you to request an appointment. Our experts will be happy to help you better understand the wide range of treatment options available to you, and to help you find the best solution.