A new study has shown that an MRI could predict shoulder stiffness in patients with rotator cuff tears. There were two important findings discovered through the study, which is the first of its kind to identify joint capsule abnormality as a factor within shoulder stiffness after a rotator cuff tear.
Here, we’ll look at the study in more detail and why its findings are important for patients.
Understanding the study
The study, carried out in Korea, assessed 106 patients who had small to large full-thickness rotator cuff tears. They also had axillary recess thickness, alongside joint capsule oedema. The researchers looked at the degree of retraction, obliteration of the subcoracoid fat triangle and the fatty degeneration of the torn muscle.
An operative report and MRI findings determined the tear location and size. They also looked at the links between the MRI findings and preoperative passive range of motion. It was discovered that fatty degeneration was a predictor of a limited range of movement in terms of internal rotation. It was also discovered that males with posterosuperior rotator cuff tears were a predictor of shoulder range of movement on external rotation.
The most significant finding, however, was that there appeared to be a negative linear correlation between a limited range of movement in forward elevation and the joint capsule thickness in the glenoid area. There was also a correlation between the joint capsule oedema in the humeral area and external rotation.
Shoulder stiffness linked to reduced risk of re-tear
Interestingly, another study has shown that patients who experience shoulder stiffness after rotator cuff surgery, experience a reduced risk of a re-tear. However, this only applied to patients who experienced stiffness at six and twelve weeks after the operation.
Compared to those who experienced no stiffness at all, patients experienced a reduced re-tear rate. They were also found to have better outcomes after six months. It also showed that those who went into the surgery with already stiff shoulders were more likely to experience stiffness after the procedure too.
Why the new research is important for patients?
The newest study in Korea is important as it highlights the potential benefits of using MRI to detect and treat patients with rotator cuff tears. Shoulder stiffness is said to affect up to 40% of patients who experience a rotator cuff tear.
Now, surgeons and shoulder specialists know that the recess of the armpit and joint capsule swelling can be used as an indicator for frozen shoulder. If they can identify the risks of a frozen shoulder, they will be better able to treat the patient.
Losing motion in the shoulder after surgery can significantly impact quality of life. Therefore, having early access to the right treatments to improve the range of motion is important. MRI scanning is a simple and effective way to help identify the risks and generate a treatment plan early.