RESEARCH SUPPORT, NON-U.S. GOV'T
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Partial rotator cuff tears in adolescents: factors affecting outcomes.

INTRODUCTION: In the adult population, rotator cuff tears are common and established treatment methods yield satisfactory results. In adolescents, however, these injuries are uncommon and few treatment methods and outcome reports exist. The purpose of this study was to examine a series of adolescent rotator cuff tears, identify associated pathology, and report treatment outcomes.

METHODS: A retrospective comparative analysis of adolescent patients treated for rotator cuff tears diagnosed by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or arthroscopy between 2008 and 2010 was performed. Patients were divided by treatment rendered: nonoperative or operative. Demographic and diagnostic variables were compared between the 2 groups. After release to full activity, 3 patient outcome measures were obtained: QuickDASH (Disability of the Arm, Shoulder, and Hand), QuickDASH Sports module, and the Single Assessment Numerical Evaluation (SANE).

RESULTS: Fifty-three adolescents (38 boys and 15 girls) with a mean age of 15.8 years (8.8 to 18.8 y) met the inclusion criteria. All rotator cuff tears were partial articular-sided tendon avulsions, and surgical treatment (when required) consisted of debridement to stable edges. All patients underwent a trial of at least 6 weeks of physical therapy, with 57% failing to improve and requiring subsequent surgery. In the patients that were treated nonoperatively, 39% were diagnosed with associated pathology based on MRI findings, whereas operative patients exhibited an associated pathology rate of 70%. Patients with MRI-diagnosed associated pathology were 1.8 times more likely (95% confidence interval, 1.02-3.13, P=0.025) to require surgery compared with those without MRI-identified associated pathology. Nineteen patients (13 operative, 6 nonoperative) completed the outcome questionnaires at a mean 16.9 months after treatment. QuickDASH, SANE, and QuickDASH Sports module scores were not statistically different between nonoperative and operative treatment groups (7.5 vs. 8.1, P=0.90; 85.3 vs. 80.6, P=0.47; and 5.2 vs. 19.5, P=0.39, respectively). All outcome measures exhibited significant correlations with one another, with the strongest correlation being a negative association between SANE and Sports module scores (r=-0.76, P=0.001).

DISCUSSION: Isolated partial articular-sided tendon avulsion injuries may be successfully treated with physical therapy, with return to sports expected; however, if associated pathology was present then nonoperative treatment was less successful. Improvement in pain and activities of daily living can be achieved with surgery after failed conservative management for rotator cuff injuries; however, the adolescent athlete will often have residual shoulder complaints during sports participation.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Level III-retrospective cohort study.

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