Arthroscopic Rotator Cuff Repair

What is the Rotator Cuff?

The rotator cuff is made up of four muscles and their tendons (Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, Subscapularis & Teres Minor) that surround the shoulder joint. When you raise your arm the rotator cuff holds the ball (humeral head) of the shoulder within the socket (glenoid).

How do you repair the rotator cuff?

The rotator cuff will be repaired by making small incisions around the shoulder and by use of an arthroscope (camera) to see all the structures of the joint. Special instruments allow Dr. Gillespie to repair injuries to the rotator cuff and the shoulder joint

Length of Stay

This is same day surgery. You will need to have someone who can take you home. Your ride does not have to stay all day.


Patients usually have two types of anesthesia for this surgery. The first is general anesthesia, which means you are asleep. The second type of anesthesia is a nerve block. Your arm will be numb and will feel very strange. The nerve block will last about 12-14 hours. The anesthesiologist will speak to you on the day of surgery. The ultimate choice of anesthesia technique is up to you and your anesthesiologist.


You will have 3-4 small incisions around your shoulder. They will only be about 1 cm long.


Rotator cuff surgery is initially very uncomfortable. You will have pain medication prescribed for you prior to discharge. After the nerve block wears off you will have discomfort. Most of the pain is related to your very swollen shoulder. That swelling will resolve in 24-48 hours.


Your arm will be placed in a sling prior to leaving the operating room. You are to remain in your sling 24 hours a day. This includes sleeping in your sling. For the four weeks that you are in your sling, you are not permitted to drive.


You will go home with clear dressings and gauze. After 2 days you may remove the dressings. There will be steristrips around your incisions. These can get wet after 4 days. They will fall off on their own.

Physical Therapy

For the first two to three months of recovery, you will do very gentle stretching at home. The next three months you will continue to do your home exercises and also attend formal physical therapy.


Recovery from rotator cuff repair surgery is six months. During that time you will have restrictions on the use of your operative arm.

Day of surgery to Week 4: remain in sling, no use of arm, out of work, no driving
Months 1-3: opposite hand work only
Months 3 – 4 1/2: no lifting and carrying anything greater than 10 lbs and only occasional over shoulder reaching
Months 4 1/2 – 6: no lifting and carrying anything greater than 20 lbs


Dr. Gillespie will take photos during your surgery. Please bring those pictures to your first postoperative visit. Dr. Gillespie will review them with you and discuss exactly what was done in your shoulder.