I have been reading many of the posts here to get more info on my specific condition and thought I would share what happened to me in case it will help others. Last February I fell and injured my shoulder; after conservative measures with no resolution, I was sent for an MRI. The MRI showed a full thickness tear of the rotator cuff supraspinatus. My orthopedic doctor told me that it could not repair itself and surgery was indicated. He is a general orthopedic doctor who mainly does knees and hips.
So, I had the surgery done in May 2011, and was doing very good postoperatively. I was in a sling with one bolster, and did not start therapy for one month. I was not allowed to do strengthening exercises during PT at that time, to let the tear heal. At 6 weeks post-op, the bolster was removed, leaving me with a regular sling. In a few more weeks, I was told I could go without the sling at all. At two months post-op the strengthening exercises started.
As my PT progressed, my Physical Therapist told me that I was ahead of the game. I was at the point of being able to lift my arms over my head with the use of the cane. I could hold my arm outright, was working on getting it straight up. Little did I know that I was only pulling the tendon apart with every hard push or pull.
Just past the three month post-op period, all of a sudden things went downhill. I could not lift my arm at all, could not extend it out sideways more than a few inches, and could not reach across the table to grab the salt shaker without severe pain. I had to hold my arm close to my body to reach upward. I had a feeling something was really wrong and it was. I was sent for another MRI that showed a full thickness tear (re-tear). This was exactly at the 3 month and 2 weeks post-op stage. I was extremely upset that 3 months of pain and hard work were down the drain.
I didn't know who to blame - my doctor, myself, my therapist, but I think all of us could have done a much better job in communicating with each other. After I obtained my operative report I was a bit dismayed. Written there in black and white, it said how bad the tear had been, and that it MIGHT need a graft jacket if I went on to a subsequent failure. I wondered why the graft had not been put in place to begin with. I love my orthopedic doctor, but decided that I needed to find a "shoulder specialist" - a doctor that does shoulders ONLY and nothing else. I figured they did shoulder operations day in and day out, and had years of experience with the shoulder as opposed to the general orthopedic doctor who might do a rotator cuff repair once a month or even less.
I started to search the internet for shoulder specialists. There is a site called Beckers, that rates the best shoulder doctors in the USA. I found a few in my state and started to research them. I found out a lot about the doctors, their ratings, their publications, I read round-tree discussions that they had taken part in, etc etc. So, I called and made and appointment with one of them and had my revision surgery in November 2011.
When a rotator cuff is torn completely in half, it's a lot different than a partial tear. If you have a partial tear, get it fixed before it splits all the way open! As far as my own revision surgery, I am doing good. I have so much less pain than last time and I feel things are OK in there. I had a sling with a double bolster to keep my arm out about 16" from my body. I am now down to one. I cannot start PT at all, even at 2 months post-op. The doctor wants the graft work to completely heal before it starts to get tugged on.
If anyone is having consistent shoulder problems, please try to see a shoulder specialist instead of general ortho doctor. Google "Beckers 67 Outstanding Shoulder Surgeons and Specialists" to find a list of the best shoulder doctors in the USA and see who is in your State. Research them further, you will probably find lots of articles on them and articles written by them. You can also watch their surgeries on You Tube.
If anyone has had similar, or has had a grafting done to repair their rotator cuff, or has had a failure, I would love to hear your experiences. I would be happy to answer any questions anyone may have.