Arthroscopic Rotator Cuff Surgery: What You Need to Know

Arthroscopic rotator cuff surgery is a minimally invasive surgical procedure used to repair a torn rotator cuff in your shoulder. The procedure involves small incisions through which a camera, arthroscope, and surgical instruments are inserted to repair the damaged tendons. This guide will help you understand what to do before surgery, on the day of surgery, and what to expect during recovery.


About the Author: Joseph Tauro, MD, a Board-Certified orthopedic surgeon, is nationally recognized for his expertise in treating shoulder, sports, and degenerative joint disorders. As a professor at Rutgers Medical School and a Master Instructor for the Arthroscopy Association of North America (AANA), he leads the field in developing new techniques for minimally invasive joint replacement, arthroscopic shoulder surgery, and Augmented Reality surgical training. Patients from across the U.S. are referred to Dr. Tauro for his specialized care. Request an appointment with Dr. Tauro today to experience expert orthopedic care first-hand! 



Rotator Cuff Arthroscopy Surgery. Patient education diagram.


Pre-Surgery Guidelines for Arthroscopic Rotator Cuff Surgery

What You Should Do Before Arthroscopic Rotator Cuff Surgery:

  • Consultation with Dr. Tauro:

    • Ensure you have a thorough discussion with your surgeon about the procedure, risks, and benefits.
  • Medical Clearance and Preparation:

    • Obtain medical clearance from your primary care physician if required.
    • Review all medications with your doctor. You may need to stop certain medications, like blood thinners, a few days before surgery.
  • Physical and Home Preparation:

    • Engage in pre-surgery physical therapy or a home therapy program if recommended to strengthen the shoulder muscles.
    • Arrange your home to accommodate your post-surgery needs. This might include setting up a comfortable resting area and ensuring easy access to necessities. You may feel more comfortable partially sitting up for sleep for the first few weeks after surgery. We recommend an armed reading pillow with 2 regular pillows in front of it. These are available at most retail outlets or online.

What You Shouldn’t Do Before Arthroscopic Rotator Cuff Surgery:

  • Eating and Drinking:

    • Do not eat or drink anything after midnight before your surgery day. This includes chewing gum which can produce excessive saliva in your stomach.
  • Smoking and Alcohol:

    • Avoid smoking as it can impair healing and increase the risk of complications.
    • Do not consume alcohol at least 24 hours before surgery.


Father is holding his son in his arms during a walk on the white sand beach by the ocean. Father has recovered from a rotator cuff arthroscopy surgery.


Day of Arthroscopic Rotator Cuff Surgery

What to Do on the Day of Surgery:

  • Arrive on Time:

    • Arrive at the hospital or surgical center at the scheduled time. The staff at the surgical center will call you with that time generally the day before surgery.
  • Wear Comfortable Clothing:

    • Wear loose, comfortable clothing that is easy to remove and put on.
  • Bring Essentials:

    • Bring necessary documents, a list of medications.

What to Expect on the Day of Surgery:

  • Pre-Operative Preparation:

    • You will undergo pre-operative preparations, including vital sign checks and anesthesia administration. Anesthesia will usually include a local nerve block which will reduce pain for several days as well as general anesthesia. 
  • Surgery Duration:

    • The procedure typically takes 1-2 hours, but this can vary depending on your repair.
  • Post-Operative Recovery:

    • After surgery, you will be monitored in a recovery area until the anesthesia wears off.


A girl plays tennis on a court with a hard blue surface on a summer sunny day. Tennis is a common cause of rotator cuff tears with overhand motion. This injury can be fixed with an rotator cuff arthroscopy surgery.


Post-Operative Care and Recovery After Arthroscopic Rotator Cuff Surgery

Immediate Post-Op Care:

  • Pain Management:

    • Expect some pain and discomfort, which will be managed with prescribed medications. With the nerve block, there is usually minimal pain which can be managed with Tylenol and ibuprofen. 
  • Sling Usage:

    • Your shoulder will be immobilized in a sling to protect the repair.
  • Follow-Up Appointments:

    • Schedule follow-up appointments with your surgeon, usually 1 to 2 weeks post surgery. You can pre schedule this appointment in our office before your surgery..

Phases of Recovery After Arthroscopic Rotator Cuff Surgery:

Phase 1 (0-6 Weeks): Protection and Passive Motion

    • Wear the sling as directed.
    • Engage in passive motion exercises as prescribed by your physical therapist.
    • Avoid active shoulder movements and lifting.

Phase 2 (6-10 Weeks): Active Motion

    • Gradually begin active motion exercises under the guidance of your physical therapist.
    • Focus on restoring range of motion without straining the shoulder.

Phase 3 (10-24 Weeks): Strengthening

    • Incorporate strengthening exercises for the rotator cuff and surrounding muscles.
    • Continue to avoid heavy lifting or activities that place excessive strain on the shoulder.

Phase 4 (24+ Weeks): Functional Training

    • Progress to functional and sports-specific training as tolerated.
    • Aim to return to normal activities and sports gradually, following your therapist’s advice.


Baseball pitcher throwing baseball. Pitcher injured his rotator cuff, and will undergo a rotator cuff arthroscopy surgery.


Full Recovery After Arthroscopic Rotator Cuff Surgery:

  • Time Frame:

    • Full recovery can take anywhere from 4 months to a year, depending on the extent of the repair and your adherence to the rehabilitation program. Most patients can return to activities like swimming and golf at 4 months post op.
  • Rehabilitation:

    • Consistent and dedicated rehabilitation is crucial for a successful outcome. Attend all therapy sessions and follow your doctor’s and therapist’s instructions diligently.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

  • How long will I need to wear the sling?

    • Typically, you will need to wear the sling for 4-6 weeks to protect the repair.
  • When can I return to work?

    • This depends on your job and the extent of your surgery. Desk jobs may allow a return within a few weeks, while more physical jobs may require several months.
  • Will I regain full range of motion?

    • With proper rehabilitation, most patients regain a significant range of motion, though individual results can vary.


Arthroscopic rotator cuff repair is a highly effective procedure for treating rotator cuff tears. By following the pre-surgery guidelines, preparing adequately, and adhering to the post-operative care and rehabilitation phases, you can achieve a successful recovery and regain full function of your shoulder. Always communicate with Dr. Tauro and your physical therapist and seek their advice if you have any concerns during your recovery journey. If you are experiencing shoulder pain and would like a consultation, schedule an appointment with Dr. Tauro today!