What is mini open rotator cuff repair?

The rotator cuff consists of muscles and tendons that hold the shoulder in place. It’s one of the most important parts of the shoulder, as it lets you lift your arm and reach up. An injury to the rotator cuff, such as a tear, may happen suddenly when falling on an outstretched hand, or it can develop over time due to repetitive activities. Rotator cuff degeneration and tears may also be caused by aging. Other problems in the rotator cuff can result from inflammation in the bursa or other tissues.

Tears in the rotator cuff can lead to a variety of shoulder problems, and may become very painful. In some cases, rotator cuff tears can even lead to debilitating shoulder dysfunction and impairment.

Surgical techniques that may be used to repair a tear of the rotator cuff include:

  • Open repair. The surgeon makes an incision over the shoulder and detaches the large muscle (the deltoid). This helps them see the rotator cuff and get to the torn tendon. This approach is usually used for large or complicated tears.
  • Arthroscopic repair. One to 3 very small incisions are made and tiny tools are inserted through a scope. A video image of the surgery is projected on a screen so the surgeon can see inside the shoulder.
  • Mini-open repair. The surgeon uses arthroscopy to assess the joint and possible repair bone spurs or other problems. Then another small incision is made to repair the rotator cuff. The surgeon sees the tissues directly at this point, and not on a screen.

The success of this procedure is not only in how well the procedure is performed, but how well you focus on recovery. With this procedure, it is very important that you follow your doctor’s instructions very closely to help reduce the risk of infection, or even the return of shoulder problems.

What are the benefits?

Rotator cuff repair surgery can restore use of the shoulder and reduce pain. Mini-open rotator cuff surgery uses smaller incisions than open surgery, and the surgeon does not detach the large deltoid muscle. This results in less risk and recovery time. Most patients see improved shoulder function, as well as increased strength and range of motion.

What are the risks and/or side effects?

As with any surgical procedure, complications can happen. Some possible complications may include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Blood clots
  • The joint pain and weakness may not be relieved by the surgery. You may not recover full range of motion in the shoulder joint.
  • Nerves or blood vessels in the area of surgery may be injured. This results in weakness or numbness.

There may be other risks depending on your specific medical condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your doctor before the procedure.

Also, it is very important to follow all of your doctor’s instructions to make sure that your shoulder fully heals and shoulder problems don’t return. You will likely need to do physical therapy and other exercises to help your shoulder fully heal.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I prepare?

Your doctor will explain the procedure to you and offer you the chance to ask any questions that you might have about the procedure.

In addition to a complete medical history, your doctor may perform a complete physical exam to make sure that you are in good health before undergoing the procedure. You may undergo blood tests or other diagnostic tests.

  • Tell your doctor if you are sensitive to or are allergic to any medicines, latex, tape, and anesthetic agents (local and general).
  • Tell your doctor of all medicines (prescribed and over-the-counter), patches and herbal supplements that you are using.
  • Tell your doctor if you have a history of bleeding disorders or if you are taking any anticoagulant (blood-thinning) medicines, aspirin, or other medicines that affect blood clotting. It may be necessary for you to stop these medicines before the procedure.
  • Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or suspect that you are pregnant.
  • Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions about when to stop eating and drinking before surgery.
  • Arrange for a responsible adult to drive you home and stay with you the first day.

You may meet with a physical therapist before your surgery to discuss rehabilitation. Based on your medical condition, your healthcare provider may request other specific preparation.