The all too familiar "pop!" immediately followed by weakness, pain, and immobility; the classic signs of a shoulder injury. Many shoulder injuries affect the rotator cuff. "Each year approximately 200,000 American require surgery related to the repair of the rotator cuff" (Yamaguchi). This vast number of surgeries makes shoulder injuries a popular topic in the medical field. Physicians have been researching ways to improve patients' recovery and return their range of motion back to normal. One such improvement is the release of the long head of the biceps tendon.
One major injury suffered in the shoulder is to the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and its surrounding tendon in the shoulder. These muscles and tendons (rotator cuff) serve to stabilize the shoulder. Many athletes are at risk of injuring the rotator cuff through repetitive impact and sudden movements.
Surgical treatment of the rotator cuff is necessary in several cases. The most common of those cases being a complete or full length tear of the rotator cuff. This occurs when there is a tear across the rotator cuff creating two separate pieces. Another reason surgical intervention may be required is for a degenerative tear. A degenerative tear is one that begins as a small or partial tear and becomes progressively worse over time. Degenerative tears are usually the result of overuse of the shoulder, whereas full length tears tend to be from an acute injury. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, Rotator cuff surgery is recommended if a patient presents any of the following: “symptoms that have lasted 6 to 12 months, a large tear (more than 3cm), significant weakness and loss of function in the shoulder, or the tear was caused by a recent, acute injury” (Rotator Cuff Tears).
There are several methods of repairing the rotator. A surgeon may elect to do an open procedure, an arthroscopic procedure, or a combination of both. The method of operation depends greatly on the injury to the shoulder. Generally an open tear is best when “the tear is large or complex. The surgeon makes the incision over the shoulder and detaches the shoulder muscle (deltoid) to better see and gain access to the torn tendon” (Rotator Cuff Tears).
While open repairs were the first method of operation, many physicians have transitioned to arthroscopic procedures due to advances in technology, as well as aesthetics; arthroscopic procedures leave 3 minor scars versus a large scar that is left from an open procedure. During an arthroscopic procedure, the surgeon uses a small camera called an arthroscope to look inside. The arthroscope projects an image on a screen, eliminating the need for the large incision used in open procedures.
Patients are then confined to an immobilizer (sling) for a period of 4-6 weeks in order to allow the rotator cuff to heal. Meanwhile the patient begins physical therapy to regain stabilization and strength in the shoulder so that he/she can return to...