The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that form a cuff over the shoulder. These muscles and tendons hold the arm in its "ball and socket" joint and are involved in essentially all shoulder motions.
The role of the tendons is to hold the powerful shoulder muscles to the shoulder and arm bones. The tendons can be torn from overuse or injury.
Either through an open incision or using small instruments through tiny incisions (arthroscopy), the tendon is repaired with sutures. If the tendon is separated from the bone, small rivets called suture anchors are used to attach the tendon back to the bone.
Surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff is usually very successful at relieving pain in the shoulder. The procedure is less predictable at returning strength to the shoulder. Recovery time often depends on the extent of the tear.
Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial Team.