A new, large-scale study has revealed that shoulder tendon repair surgery is more effective in the long-term than physiotherapy for rotator cuff tears. Although surgery is often used as a last resort, this study clearly highlights its benefits for long-term success.
Here, we’ll look at the results of this latest study and the surgical repair options available to treat rotator cuff tears.
Shoulder tendon repair more effective for small and medium tears
The study, which used a ten-year follow-up to produce its results, showed that tendon repair could be more effective for small and medium tears. The researchers analysed data from a total of 103 patients. Each had rotator cuff tears which were a maximum of 3cm.
The 103 patients were randomly chosen for either physiotherapy or primary tendon repair. Follow-ups were then conducted at six months, one year, two years, five years and finishing on the 10th year. The follow-up data looked into patient satisfaction, shoulder pain, and strength and motion.
It was discovered that the efficiency of treatment was higher for patients who underwent tendon repair. In all of the follow-ups after the surgery, the function of the shoulder was reported as stable. However, in the patients who underwent physiotherapy, stability of the shoulder was shown to actually decline. At the ten-year follow-up review, tendon repair had the best scores overall in terms of pain, mobility and stability.
Although this study only focused on small and medium rotator cuff tears, it does show the benefits early surgery could provide.
When is surgery recommended for rotator cuff tears?
At the moment, surgery is used as a last resort to treat rotator cuff tears. Non-surgical methods are attempted first, particularly if the tear is small or medium in size. However, it is known that unrepaired tendons actually widen over time, resulting in a need for more invasive surgery later on.
Patients usually need to wait six months to a year before surgery is recommended. The only exception to this is if the rotator cuff tear is large or if there is a significant weakness within the shoulder and arm.
The surgical options available
There are a number of surgical options available to repair a rotator cuff tear. The type of surgery used will depend upon a number of factors such as the severity of the tear and the quality of the bone and tendon.
The three most common surgical options include open repair, all-arthroscopic repair and a mini open repair. If you are suffering from a rotator cuff tear, you’ll be advised which treatment option would best fit your circumstances.
Overall, rotator cuff tears can be extremely painful, and surgery is usually used as a last resort. However, this latest research shows the importance of early surgery to provide better long-term outcomes for patients. Those who are suffering from a rotator cuff tear should book a consultation to determine its severity and the best course of treatment moving forward.