Is It Safe to Inject Corticosteroids Into the Glenohumeral Joint After Arthroscopic Rotator Cuff Repair?

Yang-Soo Kim, Hong-Ki Jin, Hyo-Jin Lee, Hyung-Lae Cho, Wan-Seok Lee, Hyuk-Jin Jang
American Journal of Sports Medicine 2019, 47 (7): 1694-1700

BACKGROUND: Injection of intra-articular corticosteroids is effective for improving the recovery of range of motion (ROM) and pain in various conditions of the shoulder but its use is limited after rotator cuff repair owing to concern over the possible harmful effects of steroids on the repaired tendon.

PURPOSE: To evaluate the effect of intra-articular corticosteroid injections on the clinical outcomes and cuff integrity of patients after rotator cuff repair.

STUDY DESIGN: Randomized controlled trial; Level of evidence, 1.

METHODS: Between March 2011 and April 2014, 80 patients with a small- to medium-sized rotator cuff tear were enrolled in this study and underwent arthroscopic rotator cuff repair. Forty patients received an injection of triamcinolone (40 mg) and lidocaine (1.5 mL) into the glenohumeral joint 8 weeks after surgery (group 1), while the remaining 40 patients received normal saline injection (group 2). Outcome measures-including ROM, American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons (ASES) score, Constant score, pain visual analog scale, and Simple Shoulder Test score-were evaluated at 3, 6, and 12 months after surgery and at the last follow-up. The integrity of the repaired tendon was evaluated by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and classified per Sugaya classification at 8 weeks (before injection) and 12 months after surgery.

RESULTS: The mean follow-up period was 25.7 months. At 3 months postoperatively, patients in group 1 had a significantly higher ROM with respect to forward flexion ( P = .05), external rotation at the side ( P = .05), and external rotation at abduction ( P = .04) as compared with group 2, whereas no significant difference was noted between the groups for internal rotation behind the back ( P = .65). Patients in group 1 had significantly lower visual analog scale pain scores ( P = .02) and higher ASES scores (group 1, 68.90; group 2, 60.28; P = .02) at 3-month follow-up. However, there was no significant difference after 6 months with respect to ROM and ASES scores (group 1, 77.80; group 2, 75.88; P = .33). Retears (Sugaya classification IV and V) were determined by MRI at 12 months and observed in a total of 7 patients (8.8%): 3 from group 1 (7.5%) and 4 from group 2 (10%). No retears were observed on MRI in the remaining 73 patients (91.2%): 37 patients from group 1 and 36 patients from group 2. There was no statistically significant difference in rate of retears between groups ( P = .69).

CONCLUSION: Intra-articular injection of corticosteroids after rotator cuff repair does not increase the risk of retears and is thus an effective and safe treatment method for increasing ROM (forward flexion, external rotation) and improving clinical score (ASES) during the early postoperative period of patients undergoing rotator cuff repair.

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