According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS), two million Americans visit their doctors with a rotator cuff issue every year. Rotator cuff injuries occur most commonly in men and women over the age of 40 and are commonly caused by normal wear and tear that goes along with aging.
The rotator cuff is a series of four tendons that connects the humerus (main bone of the arm) with the shoulder and is responsible for the majority of arm movements. When a person experiences a rotator cuff tear, he or she might lose the ability to move their arm overhead and performing tasks, such as washing your hair or lifting objects, may become challenging or painful.
There are two main types of rotator cuff tears:
- Degenerative tears – These tears tend to occur in middle-aged people who lead an active life. Degenerative tears develop gradually and tend to cause more pain and loss of function over time.
- Traumatic tears – These tears are usually a result of a traumatic injury, such as a fall or accident. It’s clear there’s an injury because of an immediate loss of function of the arm.
To diagnose these injuries, we usually start with an X-ray to assess for bone injuries such as arthritis, fracture or dislocation. Next, we conduct an MRI, which allows us to see the muscles and tendons and obtain additional details about the rotator cuff tear. We discuss these results with the patient to help them understand their treatment options, which may include:
- Conservative treatments – These treatments are best for patients who have pain without loss of strength in the shoulder area. For these individuals, anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy or steroid injections are good options. The latest scientific research shows benefits of platelet rich plasma (PRP) and stem cell injections into the rotator cuff to treat rotator cuff tears. Due to the novel nature of these treatments, they are not covered by insurance, but Edward-Elmhurst Health does offer them as an option.
- Arthroscopic Rotator Cuff Repair – Shoulder Arthroscopy, a minimally invasive surgical technique, can be used to repair rotator cuff tears. There are a variety of types of rotator cuff tears, ranging from partial-thickness to full-thickness injury. A number of factors, including how chronic the injury is, tendon quality and patient age, may impact the likelihood of successful rotator cuff repair.
- Superior Capsular Reconstruction – For those patients who are not good candidates for surgical repair due to an irreparable rotator cuff tear, this novel procedure involves using an acellular dermal graft to replace the function of the rotator cuff.
- Reverse Shoulder Replacement – This treatment is for the highest severity of rotator cuff injuries in which arthritis has developed resulting in severe pain and limited shoulder function. Reverse shoulder replacement can have a dramatic impact by relieving pain and restoring mobility of the shoulder.
- Recovery after surgery requires dedicated physical therapy to regain strength and range of motion. Most patients experience a full recovery from the procedure within 3-6 months.
Edward-Elmhurst Health provides the most up-to-date technology and cutting-edge surgical techniques to address rotator cuff injuries. Minimally-invasive procedures help patients experience a more reliable and timely recovery so they feel better and can get back to their day-to-day activities.