The factors affecting the clinical outcome and integrity of arthroscopically repaired rotator cuff tears of the shoulder

Nam Su Cho, Yong Girl Rhee
Clinics in Orthopedic Surgery 2009, 1 (2): 96-104

BACKGROUND: The purpose of this study was to evaluate the functional and anatomic results of arthroscopic rotator cuff repair, and to analyze the factors affecting the integrity of arthroscopically repaired rotator cuff tears of the shoulder.

METHODS: One hundred sixty-nine consecutive shoulders that underwent arthroscopic rotator cuff repair, had a postoperative MRI evaluation and were followed for at least two years were enrolled in this study. The mean age was 57.6 years (range, 38 to 74 years) and the mean follow-up period was 39 months (range, 24 to 83 months).

RESULTS: The rotator cuff was completely healed in 131 (77.5%) out of 169 shoulders and recurrent tears occurred in 38 shoulders (22.5%). At the last follow-up visit, the mean score for pain during motion was 1.53 (range, 0 to 4) in the completely healed group and 1.59 (range, 0 to 4) in the group with recurrent tears (p = 0.092). The average elevation strength was 7.87 kg (range, 4.96 to 11.62 kg) and 5.25 kg (range, 4.15 to 8.13 kg) and the mean University of California at Los Angeles score was 30.96 (range, 26 to 35) and 30.64 (range, 23 to 34), respectively (p < 0.001, p = 0.798). The complete healing rate was 87.8% in the group less than 50 years of age (49 shoulders), 79.4% in the group over 51 years but less than 60 years of age (68 shoulders), and 65.4% in the group over 61 years of age (52 shoulders, p = 0.049); it was 96.7% in the group with small-sized tears (30 shoulders), 87.3% in the group with medium-sized tears (71 shoulders), and 58.8% in the group with large-sized or massive tears (68 shoulders, p = 0.009). All of the rotator cuffs with a global fatty degeneration index of greater than two preoperatively had recurrent tears.

CONCLUSIONS: Arthroscopic repair of full-thickness rotator cuff tears led to a relatively high rate of recurrent defects. However, the minimum two-year follow up demonstrated excellent pain relief and improvement in the ability to perform the activities of daily living, despite the structural failures. The factors affecting tendon healing were the patient's age, the size and extent of the tear, and the presence of fatty degeneration in the rotator cuff muscle.

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