The surgeon reattaches the tendon to the head of the humerus (upper arm bone). If only a partial tear exists the doctor will smooth or trim part of the tendon. This surgery may be done using an arthroscopic or open technique. The open technique may be necessary depending on the complexity of the tear or if other shoulder reconstructions are necessary. This method is more invasive, leaves more scarring and has a longer recovery period. The arthroscopic method uses thin instruments that are inserted into the body through small cuts in the skin. Patients typically recover faster from this technique because it is minimally invasive.
After surgery the patient will wear a sling for four to six weeks. After this time has passed, the patient will begin performing passive exercises with a physical therapist. Gradually the patient will begin to do more active exercises. Between eight to twelve weeks after the surgery, the patient will start a strength conditioning regime under the guidance of the therapist. The patient should expect full range of motion to return in four to six months after the surgery. A majority of patients report decreased pain and increased strength and functioning, regardless of the surgical technique used. In a minority of cases patients report loss of motion, re-tear, deltoid detachment, infection or nerve damage.