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Conditions We Treat: Rotator Cuff Tears

The rotator cuff helps stabilize your shoulder joint and allows you to raise and rotate your arm. There are four rotator cuff tendons in each shoulder that attach the rotator cuff muscles to the top of the arm bone (humerus) and help the shoulder move. These tendons are prone to full and partial tears due to wear and tear, such as from tendonitis or injury, including sports injuries.

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Rotator Cuff Repair: Why Choose Johns Hopkins

 
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 Learn about rotator cuff tears.
  • We use advanced imaging techniques to rule out other conditions that may mimic a torn rotator cuff, such as frozen shoulder.
  • Our team of shoulder surgeons is skilled in shoulder arthroscopy (minimally invasive shoulder surgery) and participates in several clinical trials to explore new approaches to treatment.
  • Our shoulder specialists are experienced in treating patients with failed rotator cuff repairs and other complex cases.
  • Whether you tore your rotator cuff while playing baseball or helping a friend move, our specialists are here to help. Athletes can also take advantage of our sports medicine program.  
  • If surgery is needed, we offer high-quality medical care and comprehensive post-surgery monitoring to help you get back to your former lifestyle.

 

Torn Rotator Cuff Repair Options

In some cases, surgery can be used to reattach the torn tendon. The two popular surgical methods include an open surgery and a minimally invasive procedure called shoulder arthroscopy that uses smaller incisions. Consult with one of our shoulder specialists to discuss which surgery may be the best fit for you rotator cuff tear.

However, not all rotator cuff tears need surgery. Even if the tendon is fully torn, some people may maintain a comfortable range of motion in the shoulder. For partial rotator cuff tears that cause pain or reduce function of the shoulder, the following nonsurgical treatments can be used:

  • Physical therapy and exercises to prevent stiffness
  • Ice treatment to reduce pain
  • Medications to relieve pain and reduce inflammation
  • Activity modification to prevent worsening of the tear
rotator cuff tear patient story

Rotator Cuff Tear and Shoulder Arthritis: Barb’s Story

Barb Meshulam, 63, tore her rotator cuff twice and had two surgeries to repair it. But not long after the last surgery, pain and discomfort returned. She was told she may have to live with it, but Barb decided to get a second opinion from orthopaedic surgeon Edward McFarland, M.D., at Johns Hopkins. When he ran a routine test, it became clear why Barb was in so much pain and what could be done to remedy it.

Read Barb's story

Considerations for Rotator Cuff Surgery

Although rotator cuff surgery can reattach the torn tendon, there is no guarantee that the tendon will fully heal. Many things, such as your age and the size and location of the tear, need to be carefully considered before deciding whether to choose surgical repair. If the tendon is already heavily worn, it may be at risk of tearing again after the surgery. For patients who have arthritis of the shoulder in addition to the rotator cuff tear, shoulder replacement could be another option.

Request an appointment with one of our shoulder specialists to find out which treatment approach will work best for you.

Dr, McFarland with a model of a shoulder joint

Our Team of Shoulder Specialists

 

You can rely on the experience and expertise of our shoulder specialists, who have helped numerous patients with rotator cuff tears.

Edward McFarland, M.D.
Uma Srikumaran, M.D.
Andrew Cosgarea, M.D.
Sameer Dixit, M.D.
Miho Tanaka, M.D.
John Tis, M.D.
John Wilckens, M.D.
Bashir Zikria, M.D., M.Sc.

Learn more about our shoulder specialists.

illustration of a rotator cuff tear

Failed Rotator Cuff Repair Patient Guide

 

Not all rotator cuff repair surgeries are successful, and sometimes the tendon may get torn again. This has little to do with the quality of the surgery and more with the type and size of the initial tear. You have several options if your rotator cuff repair fails. Our Johns Hopkins shoulder specialists are experienced in helping patients with prior failed rotator cuff surgeries.

Read the failed rotator cuff repair patient guide.

Rotator Cuff Injuries – Q&A with Uma Srikumaran

Johns Hopkins orthopaedic surgeon Uma Srikumaran, M.D., describes types of rotator cuff injuries and talks about treatment options for rotator cuff tears. He goes into detail about arthroscopic surgery for rotator cuff repair, who could benefit from such treatment and the recovery process that follows

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