Mental Health Has a Stronger Association with Patient-Reported Shoulder Pain and Function Than Tear Size in Patients with Full-Thickness Rotator Cuff Tears

James D Wylie, Thomas Suter, Michael Q Potter, Erin K Granger, Robert Z Tashjian
Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. American Volume 2016 February 17, 98 (4): 251-6

BACKGROUND: Patient-reported outcome measures have increasingly accompanied objective examination findings in the evaluation of orthopaedic interventions. Our objective was to determine whether a validated measure of mental health (Short Form-36 Mental Component Summary [SF-36 MCS]) or measures of tear severity on magnetic resonance imaging were more strongly associated with self-assessed shoulder pain and function in patients with symptomatic full-thickness rotator cuff tears.

METHODS: One hundred and sixty-nine patients with full-thickness rotator cuff tears were prospectively enrolled. Patients completed the Short Form-36, visual analog scales for shoulder pain and function, the Simple Shoulder Test (SST), and the American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons (ASES) instrument at the time of diagnosis. Shoulder magnetic resonance imaging examinations were reviewed to document the number of tendons involved, tear size, tendon retraction, and tear surface area. Age, sex, body mass index, number of medical comorbidities, smoking status, and Workers' Compensation status were recorded. Bivariate correlations and multivariate regression models were calculated to identify associations with baseline shoulder scores.

RESULTS: The SF-36 MCS had the strongest correlation with the visual analog scale for shoulder pain (Pearson correlation coefficient, -0.48; p < 0.001), the visual analog scale for shoulder function (Pearson correlation coefficient, -0.33; p < 0.001), the SST (Pearson correlation coefficient, 0.37; p < 0.001), and the ASES score (Pearson correlation coefficient, 0.51; p < 0.001). Tear severity only correlated with the visual analog scale for shoulder function; the Pearson correlation coefficient was 0.19 for tear size (p = 0.018), 0.18 for tendon retraction (p = 0.025), 0.18 for tear area (p = 0.022), and 0.20 for the number of tendons involved (p = 0.011). Tear severity did not correlate with other scores in bivariate correlations (all p > 0.05). In all multivariate models, the SF-36 MCS had the strongest association with the visual analog scale for shoulder pain, the visual analog scale for shoulder function, the SST, and the ASES score (all p < 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS: Patient mental health may play an influential role in patient-reported pain and function in patients with full-thickness rotator cuff tears. Further studies are needed to determine its effect on the outcome of the treatment of rotator cuff disease.

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