New research has revealed the reasons patients opt to undergo rotator cuff surgery. Often seen as a last resort, rotator cuff surgery can prove extremely useful at eliminating pain and improving shoulder function. However, depending upon the type of surgery carried out, the recovery can be a long, slow one.
Here, we’ll look at what the new study revealed and whether rotator cuff surgery is the best course of treatment.
What did the study reveal?
Researchers from the Rothman Institute in the US recently conducted a study to see why patients opt for rotator cuff surgery. The results, which were presented at the annual American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine meeting in San Diego, revealed the number one reason was improved functionality.
There were 149 participants in the study, all of which were planning to undergo ARCR (Arthroscopic Rotator Cuff Repair). They each filled out a questionnaire to determine what influenced their decision. A staggering 80% of participants stated they chose surgery because they wanted to regain normal shoulder function. Other reasons cited included chronic pain, surgeon recommendations, concern over the problem becoming worse and sleep troubles because of the condition.
Interestingly, follow up after participants had undergone the surgery, showed that shoulder functionality had indeed improved. The overall functionality score of the group increased from 42.6 to 77.
What is rotator cuff surgery?
There are several types of rotator cuff surgery, including:
- Arthroscopic repair
- Open repair
Arthroscopic repair is the type of surgery the study participants underwent. It is also considered one of the best types of rotator cuff surgery in terms of success at improving shoulder functionality. A small camera known as an arthroscope, is inserted within the shoulder joint. This allows the surgeon to see where to insert their medical instruments. Small incisions are made so the surgeon can guide the medical instruments towards the torn rotator cuff. It’s considered the least invasive surgical method.
An open repair is the more traditional method and it’s mainly used to repair severe or complex rotator cuff tears. A large incision is made over the shoulder before the deltoid muscle is detached. This gives them better access to the tear and makes it easier to carry out the repair work.
The choice of surgery will depend upon how severe the tear is, and which option the surgeon feels will be most effective.
Identifying rotator cuff injuries
So, how do you know if you need rotator cuff surgery? The trouble with shoulder injuries is that they often present much of the same symptoms. Pain is the most common symptom and with rotator cuff tears, it will usually present outside of the upper arm and the shoulder.
You’ll typically experience severe pain when you attempt to do any overhead activities. It’s also common for the pain to worsen at night, causing sleep disturbances. If you notice these symptoms, it’s important to seek a diagnosis from a shoulder specialist. They will be able to identify whether or not it is a rotator cuff injury and whether surgery is the best step forward.
Rotator cuff injuries can have a profound impact on quality of life and this study illustrates just how important rotator cuff surgery can be in terms of shoulder function. However, if you want to benefit from minimally invasive surgery, it’s important you seek treatment early.