Rotatorcuff surgery

Using this guide What's covered

Here you’ll find answers to many of your questions about rotator cuff surgery. Learn how it’s done, what it may cost, what your recovery may be like, and more.

Cost indicator

Discover the typical out-of-pocket costs HCF members can expect to pay for rotator cuff surgery and learn how your choice of surgeon and hospital affect that cost.


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Learn more about rotator cuff surgery

This short animation shows how surgery is done on the shoulder rotator cuff 

The basics

What's a rotator cuff?

Your rotator cuff is a set of 4 muscles with tendons that join your shoulder blade (scapula) up with your arm bone (humerus). They work together to enable your arm to move through its full range of motion. They also keep the joint stable. When you damage your rotator cuff, you can experience pain, difficulty moving your arm and instability in the joint.

Your rotator cuff can be damaged through trauma or from wear and tear. The wear and tear may result from ageing or it can happen sooner if you do a lot of heavy work that involves your shoulder.

What's rotator cuff surgery?

If your rotator cuff is damaged, and other methods have failed, you may need to have it repaired surgically. Surgery involves identifying and repairing tears to the rotator cuff.

How's it done?

Rotator cuff surgery can be done in 3 different ways:

  • An open repair, uses a large surgical incision, and may be preferable if the tear is large and complex.
  • An arthroscopic repair uses a keyhole technique where your surgeon performs the surgery through 2 or 3 small (1–2cm) incisions.
  • With a mini-open repair your surgeon uses an arthroscope to examine the damage, then makes an incision to perform the surgery.

Where's it done?

Rotator cuff surgery is done in a hospital. It’s normally done as same-day surgery without an overnight stay.

How long does it take?

It normally takes between 1–2 hours but it depends on the complexity of the surgery.

Who's involved?

In addition to an orthopaedic surgeon, and possibly an assistant surgeon, it also involves:

  • an anaesthetist 
  • nurses 
  • a pathologist 
  • a radiologist (for X-rays)
  • a physiotherapist
  • an occupational therapist.

The details


Alternatives to rotator cuff surgery

There may be alternatives to rotator cuff surgery depending on your condition.
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Types of rotator cuff surgery

There are different types of rotator cuff surgery.
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Results vs risks of the procedure

The benefits and risks of rotator cuff surgery.
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Choosing a specialist

How to find an orthopaedic surgeon who specialises in this procedure.
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Questions for your specialist

What you should ask before going ahead with rotator cuff surgery.
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Preparing for your procedure

Pre-operative tests and preparation for rotator cuff surgery.
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Your anaesthetic options

About the anaesthesia and post-op pain relief.
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Going to hospital

What to expect on the day of your surgery.
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Your procedure

What happens in the operating theatre
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After your procedure

Your hospital stay.
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Recovery and aftercare

Resuming activities and watching for problems.
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Rehab for your shoulder

The importance of rehab for regaining optimal function in your shoulder.
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Important information

Information is provided by HCF in good faith for the convenience of members. It is not an endorsement or recommendation of any form of treatment nor is it a substitute for medical advice, and you should rely on the advice of your treating doctors in relation to all matters concerning your health. Every effort has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information, however HCF takes no responsibility for any injury, loss, damage or other consequences of the use of this information.