For massive and acute rotator cuff tears, or for rotator cuff tear repairs that fail after surgery or re-tear, general and open arthroscopic surgery may not be enough to repair the damage. In situations such as these, a tendon transfer is a surgical treatment option.  The procedure is usually a last salvage effort to cure and heal the failed rotator cuff injury, but often yields good results.

During a tendon transfer the tendon and its muscle are moved from one location to another.  This procedure is completed so that lost function of the shoulder can be regained.

Tendon transfer surgery can only be performed on patients who meet the following criteria:

  • The patient must be physically healthy, active with functional loss of strength related to muscle loss
  • The shoulder joint must be relatively healthy and in good condition with no signs of arthritis, osteoarthritis or other ailments present.
  • The patient must have healthy, strong bones
  • There must be a fair cross-sectional area and bulk of muscle tendons to be adequately transferred
  • Patients must understand the rehabilitation period for a tendon transfer. Since this is typically that last effort we can make in hopes of salvaging the shoulder tendon, a strict rehab program will need to be administered and followed carefully.

After Surgery

Rotator Cuff Repairs

The tendon repair needs 4-6 weeks to heal so active motion of the shoulder is not permitted during this time. Therapy will usually begin after your first visit to us and will be passive motion performed by the therapist. In some cases we will allow you to do water therapy where your arm will be weightless. You will need to wear your sling for 4-6 weeks. After this period you will begin a program of active motion and, eventually, strengthening.

For Tendon Transfers for Massive Rotator Cuff Repairs or Shoulder Winging

These are highly specific procedures that are tailored to the individual situation. Most are immobilized for at least 6 weeks while the transferred tendon heals. After this period you will begin a program of active motion and, eventually, strengthening.

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