Rotator Cuff Surgeries Seeing More Success with Arthroscopic Techniques

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Arthroscopic surgery is helping more Americans find relief from joint injuries such as rotator cuff tears

There’s a demonstrated time lag of three to six months between injury to the rotator cuff and surgery for those who need it – most patients just don’t realize it when they’re not going to get better on their own or with therapy.

Advances in arthroscopic surgery are providing relief for more Americans facing debilitating joint injuries, brought on by athletic pursuits or simply years of wear and tear, according to recent information from Santa Cruz Orthopaedic Institute.

Injuries to the susceptible areas such as the rotator cuff famously sustained by professional athletes like pitchers Orel Hershiser and Pedro Martinez and recently, Cleveland Browns cornerback Sheldon Brown, can suddenly sideline everyday people as they age—whether amateur “weekend warriors” or even non-athletes. People over 40 are at high risk for rotator cuff injuries and those over 70 are at very high risk.

While some rotator cuff injuries can be addressed without surgery, there is a sizeable population of people who experience tears in these groups of muscles and tendons that help stabilize the shoulder, at times without accompanying pain.

“The shoulder is the most mobile joint in the body, so injuries and soreness don’t go unnoticed,” said Dr. Peter Reynolds, a partner in Santa Cruz Orthopaedic Institute, who is recognized as the “go-to” specialist on the Central Coast for shoulder replacement and arthroplasty, reverse total shoulder and shoulder labral tear surgeries. “There’s also a demonstrated time lag of three to six months between injury and surgery for those who need it – most patients just don’t realize it when they’re not going to get better on their own or with therapy.”     

Since many patients unintentionally wait for surgery, they then are climbing out of two holes -- stiffness from lack of movement as well as atrophy of the shoulder muscle, according to Reynolds. “Opening up the shoulder for the repair only compounds these issues, often making recovery to the shoulder a long and painful process.”

Arthroscopic surgical techniques help alleviate pain and avoid the soreness experienced from opening up the shoulder. The surgical techniques to repair rotator cuff tears and correct shoulder impingements have improved substantially in the last couple years, noted Reynolds, who is an expert in both shoulder repairs as well as partial and total shoulder replacements commonly performed by surgeons in larger metro areas.

Reynolds employs the most current technique to repair rotator cuffs, a “double row” or suture bridge technique. Using two rows of sutures provides a better repair and result.

In addition, newer implants or “anchors” used to secure the torn muscles to the bone are easier to place, have better instrumentation and are designed to dissolve within two years, letting patients return to a more natural state of the joint, according to Reynolds. Arthroscopic surgery lets patients avoid significant disruption to their activities and facilitates easier recovery..

While arthroscopic rotator cuff repairs mean four to six weeks in a sling, patients can start limited range of motion exercise two or three days after surgery and passive physical therapy (performed by the therapist) in one week. With arthroscopy they’re avoiding the pain and stiffness resulting from open surgery dissections into the joint, enabling the early start to range of motion and therapy.


Gail DeLano
DeLano Communications

Gracia Krakauer


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Gail DeLano
DeLano Communications
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