Rotator Cuff Repairs- Different Strokes for Different Folks

Rotator cuff tears are very common. Rotator cuff repairs are the fifth most common surgery performed the United States. Most tears are degenerative and occur with greater frequency in patients over the age of 50. They can, however, occur from traumatic events such as falls or dislocations.

Most rotator cuff tears occur when the tendon or tendons pull away or avulses from the bony attachment at the greater tuberosity. The tear pattern can vary greatly from patient to patient. Most rotator cuff repairs are performed with anchors that are placed into the greater tuberosity. The sutures from those anchors are then passed through the rotator cuff tendons and tied down to the tuberosity bone. This provides very secure fixation. A demonstration of this typical rotator cuff repair can be seen at the bottom of our Rotator Cuff page, here.

The following is a video of an atypical rotator cuff tear where the rotator cuff tendon tore within its mid substance. These types of tears are less common and can be much more difficult to treat as we are not able to use anchors in this situation. However with arthroscopic techniques we are able to achieve a good repair with a very good clinical result.

A Note from Dr. Spencer on Instability

Posterior instability (instability where the shoulder dislocates or partially dislocates backwards) is not as common as anterior instability were the shoulder dislocates towards the front. Anterior instability is usually secondary to a traumatic event where is posterior instability is frequently associated with repetitive loading. Repetitive loading is common in sports- especially in football lineman.

As opposed to anterior instability, posterior instability is frequently associated with pain and can occur without a true labral tear. It is more commonly associated with laxity in the posterior capsule. In cases where Physical Therapy does not achieve stability, surgical reconstruction of the posterior capsule can be performed.

The following is a case of an arthroscopic posterior capsulorraphy. In this case the posterior capsule and inferior capsule are tightened to treat the laxity and restore stability to the shoulder. These arthroscopic techniques allow the capsule to be tightened with minimal disruption of the surrounding soft tissue envelope.