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Athletic Training

Torn rotator cuff



my mri showed a bad torn rotator cuff and bone spures and my dr. wants to do surgery on it how do they do it and what does it intel


Without specific knowledge of your case and without having seen your MRI or examining you, I'm afraid that I can't really tell you about your specific surgery...but I can talk about rotator cuff surgery in general.

Rotator cuff tears can be nasty injuries because the rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that not only performs rotation of the upper arm, it also is largely responsible for holding the upper arm bone (humerus) into the shoulder socket (glenoid).  When torn, you lose strength and movement, but your shoulder also can become unstable, and this can cause more problems.

The kind of surgery that the surgeon will do depends on a lot of factors including your age, your functional needs, the specific muscle(s) that is(are) torn, and most importantly, the kind of tear you have.  In athletes, we often see sudden traumatic tears where there is a "clean" tear in thick, well-developed muscle tissue and tendon.  These can sometimes be stitched back together and the outcome is generally pretty good. 

In non-athletes, especially in those who've had shoulder problems for a long time, the tear is often different. Instead of a sudden tear in good tissue, the rotator cuff and their tendons get worn down over time where they pass through a narrow tunnel in the shoulder.  This makes them thin, sometimes paper thin.  When they finally tear, there is not much good tissue left to try to stitch together.  For these, the surgeon often has to anchor the remaining tissue down to the bone of the upper arm using one of several different techniques.

Make sure you discuss the particulars of your specific surgery with your surgeon and make sure that all of your questions are answered.  Surgeons are happy to discuss your procedure and address your questions.  An informed patient is a better patient.

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Response by:

Mark  A Merrick, PhD, ATC Mark A Merrick, PhD, ATC
Associate Professor
School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences
The Ohio State University