Recovery after cuff repair – how long does it take?


by Harry Brownlow, September 2017

A group of surgeons from Florida measured the rate of recovery from arthroscopic rotator cuff repair in 627 patients and reported their results in 2017 (Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery, 26, 1271-1277).

It makes fascinating reading and it provides really useful insight into the postoperative journey after this common operation.

The key points are:
At 1 year post surgery you are as good as you are going to be. Compared to how you are at 1 year you will find:

1. Pain improvement is 74% of ultimate improvement at 3 months post surgery, and 89% of ultimate improvement at 6 months post surgery
2. Functional improvement is 50% of ultimate recovery at 3 months and 85% of ultimate recovery at 6 months
3. More than 95% of patients are satisfied with their recovery at 3 months, 6 months, 1 and 2 years post surgery
4. Bigger tears had slightly slower recovery rates than smaller tears but by 1 year the outcomes were much the same

This is good news! The operation is typically successful for improving pain and function but it is helpful to remember that it can take up to 1 year to achieve the best results.