There is a lot to consider and remember when preparing for rotator cuff surgery. Below are general medical guidelines to expect before surgery, followed by recommended home preparations.

See Rotator Cuff Repair Surgery

General Medical Guidelines

Before surgery, physicians talk to patients about what to expect and provide pre-surgical instructions. These pre-surgical instructions may include the following:

  • Two weeks prior to surgery, a patient may be asked to stop taking certain medications and/or supplements, especially those that make blood clotting difficult. Examples include ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen.
  • Patients with certain medical conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes, may be asked to see the physician(s) treating these issues.
  • Meeting with a physical therapist to discuss rehabilitation may or may not be suggested prior to surgery.
  • Get as much rest as possible the night before surgery.
  • Consider contacting someone to assist with daily activities after surgery, since arm movement will be limited.

Each patient is different, and it is important to follow the specific instructions provided by the surgeon.

Before any elective surgery, it is ideal for patients to be in their best possible physical and mental health. Issues such as infections or heart, lung, and tooth problems should be addressed and treated ahead of time. It is also recommended that shoulder or arm-related skin conditions be resolved prior to shoulder-related surgery.

See Rotator Cuff Injuries: Initial Treatment


Typical Home Preparations

Preparing the home before surgery can help a patient avoid over-using the injured arm after surgery. Consider the following:

  • Make loose-fitting clothes accessible, particularly shirts that button or zip in the front. Try to avoid clothing that goes over the head to make the dressing processes easier.
  • Locate extra pillows may provide additional support in bed or when sitting.
  • Move any objects that may prevent a clear walking path in order to prevent tripping and falling.
  • Bathroom accessories such as a shower seat, grab bar, or a detachable showerhead may aid in the bathing process.
  • Arrange for a caregiver, such as a spouse or friend, to help prepare meals and help around the house after surgery.
  • Arrange for transportation, since driving is not advised for the first six weeks after surgery.
  • Place frequently used items—such as canned food, pots and pans, and appliances—at counter height to prevent overextending the arm.
  • Go shopping: buy toiletries and pre-made meals to prevent needing to do these tasks after surgery.

Being proactive and thinking ahead can make the recovery process easier.

Dr. Ojedapo Ojeyemi is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in spine surgery and general orthopedic surgery. He has held academic clinical appointments at Howard University Hospital and lectures internationally on minimally invasive techniques. Dr. Ojeyemi is also involved in humanitarian medical missions work in Nigeria.