Surgery Reliably Repairs Torn Rotator Cuffs

People who received surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff experienced good shoulder function and relief from pain over the long term, even after the recurrence of a tear, a recent small study demonstrated. A rotator cuff is a group of four muscles and their tendons that stabilize the shoulder.


The study, which evaluated a group of 15 patients approximately eight years after they received rotator cuff repair, was presented at a recent event of the American Orthopaedic Society of Sports Medicine. A torn rotator cuff can occur as the result of, for example, a fall, a car accident or simple wear and tear among highly athletic people.
   
“We initially tested the patients at three years after their surgery and found that those with a recurrence of a tear were doing well,” said lead author Christopher Dodson, of the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, where 839 rotator cuff repairs were performed last year. “The study analyzed whether having the original surgery produced any long-term benefits for the patient.”
   
The 15 patients were asked to fill out four questionnaires each, at about eight years after their surgery. The researchers reexamined 11 of the 15 with ultrasound, and found that even those with new tears were in better condition in terms of function, strength and pain than they were prior to the rotator cuff surgery.
   
The investigation also revealed that the new tears grew larger, but didn’t result in pain nor affect function. None of the 15 had required additional treatment or surgery, nor did they experience any steady shoulder pain.

“Our obvious concern for patients who have a recurrent rotator cuff defect after surgical repair is that symptoms may recur over time,” Dodson said. “Our study concluded that the patient will experience long-term benefit from surgery and remain asymptomatic, even if a recurrent defect is present. This is encouraging for both the surgeon and the patient undergoing rotator cuff repair.”


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