Christoph Bartl1, Pannos Kouloumentas2, Konstantin Holzapfel3, Stefan Eichhorn4, Klaus Wörtler3, Andreas Imhoff5, Gian M Salzmann6
1 Department of Orthopaedic Trauma Surgery, University of Ulm, Steinhoevelstr 9, Ulm 89075; Department of Orthopaedic Sports Medicine, Technical University Munich, Ismaningerstr 22, München 81675, Germany,
2 Department of Orthopaedic Sports Medicine, Technical University Munich, Ismaningerstr 22, München 81675, Germany; Department of Orthopaedic, Evangelismos General Hospital, Athens, Greece,
3 Department of Radiology, Technical University Munich, Ismaningerstr 22, München 81675, Germany,
4 Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Technical University Munich, Ismaningerstr 22, München 81675, Germany,
5 Department of Orthopaedic Sports Medicine, Technical University Munich, Ismaningerstr 22, München 81675, Germany,
6 Department of Orthopaedic Trauma Surgery, University of Freiburg, Hugstetterstr 49, Freiburg 79095, Germany,
Background: Surgical repair of massive rotator cuff tears is associated with less favorable clinical results and a higher retear rate than repair of smaller tears, which is attributed to irreversible degenerative changes of the musculotendinous unit.
Materials and Methods: During the study period, 25 consecutive patients with a massive rotator cuff tear were enrolled in the study and the tears were repaired with an open suture anchor repair technique. Preoperative and postoperative clinical assessments were performed with the Constant score, the simple shoulder test (SST) and a pain visual analog scale (VAS). At the final follow-up, rotator cuff strength measurement was evaluated and assessment of tendon integrity, fatty degeneration and muscle atrophy was done using a standardized magnetic resonance imaging protocol.
Results: The mean follow-up period was 70 months. The mean constant score improved significantly from 42.3 to 73.1 points at the final follow-up. Both the SST and the pain VAS improved significantly from 5.3 to 10.2 points and from 6.3 to 2.1, respectively. The overall retear rate was 44% after 6 years. Patients with an intact repair had better shoulder scores and rotator cuff strength than those with a failed repair, and also the retear group showed a significant clinical improvement (each P<0.05). Rotator cuff strength in all testing positions was significantly reduced for the operated compared to the contralateral shoulder. Muscle atrophy and fatty infiltration of the rotator cuff muscles did not recover in intact repairs, whereas both parameters progressed in retorn cuffs. Conclusions: Open repair of massive rotator tears achieved high patient satisfaction and a good clinical outcome at the long-term follow-up despite a high retear rate. Also, shoulders with retorn cuffs were significantly improved by the procedure. Muscle atrophy and fatty muscle degeneration could not be reversed after repair and rotator cuff strength still did not equal that of the contralateral shoulder after 6 years.
Level of evidence: Level IV
Department of Orthopaedic Trauma Surgery, University of Ulm, Steinhoevelstr 9, Ulm 89075, Germany
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
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