Doctors and researchers know a lot about the short-term benefits of repairing rotator cuff tears. But how do these repairs hold up over time?
The authors followed up on 105 surgeries done between 1975 and 1983. All the surgeries repaired a full-thickness rotator cuff tear. All the patients also had an acromioplasty, which involves removing a part of the acromion (top edge) of the shoulder blade. The authors found that the surgeries successfully eased pain and greatly improved shoulder range of motion and strength in most cases. Overall, about 80% of the shoulders had an outcome rated excellent or satisfactory an average of 13 years after surgery.
When the authors analyzed the patient information, they discovered that large tears had worse outcomes than medium or small tears.
Patients with small tears had 94% excellent or satisfactory results. Patients with medium tears had 85% excellent or satisfactory results. This compares to 74% of patients with large tears and only 27% of patients with massive tears. In general, older patients had larger tears. For some reason, women also had somewhat worse results than men overall.
The authors give rotator cuff surgery an “A” on the test of time. They suggest that new technology and surgical methods should focus on better repair of large rotator cuff tears.