Results vsrisks of the procedure


Depending on your general health and age, and the damage to your rotator cuff, the results and recovery time will vary.

Rotator cuff surgery is generally effective in relieving pain and in restoring some strength to your shoulder.

It can take a long time to be completely back in action.

Your results and recovery time will be affected by the complexity of your procedure, your general health and whether you smoke as smoking tends to slow recovery.

You’ll need to keep your arm in a sling for 4 to 6 weeks after the surgery. Following your surgeon's guidelines and rehabilitation plan is very important. For most people, it takes their shoulder between 3 and 9 months perform normal activities. You can lose general body fitness during this period, especially if you’re older. This is something to consider when deciding whether to have the surgery.

Delaying surgery

If you have a very large rotator cuff tear, delaying surgery may not be a good idea. If the tear is very large, the tendons tend to retract further from their usual attachment site. The more retracted they are, the more complex your surgery will be and the outcome may not be as good. You need to be guided by your doctor regarding the timing of the surgery. If you have a painful, traumatic tear (from an injury), delaying surgery can also affect the outcome.

Choice of surgeon

Your choice of surgeon can affect the outcome. Orthopaedic surgeons who perform a high volume of shoulder surgeries have a higher rate of success and a lower rate of complications.

Note: Even after successful shoulder surgery your shoulder won’t feel the way it did before injury, but most people do enjoy better function and pain relief.


As with any medical procedure there are some potential risks. The chance of complications occurring depends on the exact type of procedure that you’re having and other factors including your general health and whether you smoke.


Approximately 0.5 to 1% (1 in 100) patients develop an infection in the joint following surgery. In some cases, infection is limited to the skin and soft tissues and may only require oral antibiotics. If the joint becomes infected, you’ll almost certainly need IV antibiotics and further surgery.


Blood loss during surgery is usually minimal. Transfusions are not normally required.


This is normal and is due to the initial swelling or lack of movement. It usually resolves in a few weeks but physiotherapy is essential during your recovery to prevent further stiffness. Some people have prolonged stiffness or frozen shoulder after surgery. This can last up to 9 months before it resolves. Diabetics are at a higher risk of prolonged stiffness.

Nerve injury

Nerves near your shoulder joint can occasionally be injured during surgery. Normally, they’ll improve and may eventually recover completely.

Re-tear of rotator cuff or failure to heal

If your rotator cuff has been repaired, it may tear again, especially if you resume the activity that caused it to tear in the first place. Sometimes the rotator cuff doesn’t heal. The bigger the tear and the older you are, the more likely it is that it won’t heal properly or will tear again.

Deltoid detachment

During an open or mini-open repair, your surgeon may detach the deltoid muscle in your shoulder to see and access the tendons. Occasionally the reattachment fails.

Ask your surgeon about the results and risks associated with your procedure. Also ask about their own rates of patient satisfaction and the rate of complications following the procedures they’ve performed.

Choosing a specialist

How to find an orthopaedic surgeon who specialises in this procedure.


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.