The Truth about Rotator Cuff Surgery

The Truth about Rotator Cuff Surgery

So, this dog knocked me off my push bike, when I set out for my morning bike ride in Hua Hin. I went over the top of the handlebars – two broken bones and three displaced discs in my neck, plus a torn left shoulder.

A couple of MRIs later and it was clear I had torn my rotator cuff. What’s that? There’s a relatively small muscle that holds your shoulder in place – it’s called the supraspinatus muscle and runs from the top of the shoulder blade; the ends – 3 tendons – passing over the shoulder joint. So tearing a tendon makes the shoulder weak (and hurt!!)

Surgery is done through keyholes, although it may require a full cut. The Doctor doesn’t know until he gets in.  The MRI showed I had a 3 cm gap between two parts of my tendon. I kept talking about pain in the back of my shoulder as well. After the operation I was told the back tendon had needed repair too.

I had the operation in the UK about 4 months after the accident, it would have been better a few weeks later, although two years is the possible limit.

I went to the hospital. The Doctor had me sign a piece of paper, basically allowing him to make it up as he went along. He’s a good guy. I trusted him.

The Anaesthetist was a different matter. She was going to give me anaesthetics and antibiotics. And, she told me, this was the most painful operation they had. Funny. I was told the same thing about my cruciate operation thirty years ago. "No it’s far worse", she added. 

“But don’t worry, we’ll be giving you painkillers – Tramadol and Co-codamol. And you’ll need to take Sennakot for the inevitable constipation”.

“This is my concern. I’m actually not worried about the pain – I’m worried that you are going to screw up my gut bacteria which I have been building for 35 years. I am totally drug-free zone.”

The Anaesthetist looked completely blank.

So I had the operation. Four pins put in my bones apparently, then the muscle dragged back over the top of them in the hope that tendons would reform. It doesn't always work.

Before I left hospital, my arm had to go in a sling – the Ultrasling IV, no less. “I’ve never used one of these before,” said the nurse. We gave her a phone with a You Tube video. She fixed the sling.

The next day, the nerve numbing agent in the shoulder packed in, over a period of about 3 minutes. Yup. It was agony. I took the drugs, every 4 hours as directed.

Day 3: I was feeling awful. I was due at the hospital anyway. I felt like I’d swallowed 20 golf balls. I threw up 3 times. “It’s the drugs” the nurse said. “They cause nausea and make you delirious”. You don’t say? So I packed the drugs in.  

Day 4: My sling was hurting me. One strap went across the back of my operated-on shoulder, rubbing it. The other came down the right side of my neck, pushing my damaged discs out even further. My wife and I went to You Tube. The sling was on completely wrongly. It should go round your good shoulder, not your bad neck.

Day 5. A properly fitting sling and no drugs. I feel great. I write to the Doctor and suggest that the nurse fitting the sling is part of his team and if he doesn’t check she can do it right she is letting down both patients AND him. He replied that I should have asked him to fit it. It was clearly my fault that the nurse didn't know what she was doing.

The Day 3 nurse did say she was extremely surprised because I hardly had any inflammation in my shoulder and it is usually there for about 2 weeks – actually, I had taken total vitamin E, vitamin D, fish oils, grape seed extract and nattokinase. I am now on wormwood and eating raw goats’, cows’ and sheeps’ cheese to kill any yeasts the drugs have helped breed and replenish the commensal bacteria I have lost. No point in telling the medics this at all. I don't need any more blank looks.

I also went in fit - I had been in the gym most days.

I am alreasdy back doing light exercises as prescribed; not sure I am going to need the sling for the 6 weeks forecast, but we'll see. I do however fear I won’t be hitting a golf ball properly for at least 6 months, but they warned me about that. 

So there it is - a guide to surviving a Rotator Cuff operbation. 'Be prepared'.

Quote of the week: From the nurse after I said I didn't want to take another drug - "But you must take your drugs or you won't heal."