Rotator cuff tears are a common, painful condition. Typically treated through surgical repair, there has been a lot of debate over the factors which contribute towards a favourable outcome. These include older age, the size of the tear, smoking, and location.
Now, a new study has shown that the location of the tear does not impact the surgical outcome. Here, we will look at what the study revealed and what patients need to know about the different rotator cuff injuries.
What the latest study revealed
The latest study, published within the May 2021 issue of the Arthroscopy Journal, was carried out to compare functional outcomes based upon location of the rotator cuff tear. They retrospectively analysed 104 patients with symptomatic partial thickness rotator cuff tears from 2010 to 2015.
The researchers collected data on range of motion, pain score measurements, and outcome scores. Data was compared before surgery, as well as one year after, and finally two years after the procedure. Each of the patients had suffered a supraspinatus tendon tear up to 2cm and their average age was in the mid-fifties.
All patients showed a significant improvement in function and pain relief two years after the surgery. It was discovered that there wasn’t any difference between where the tear was located and the outcome of the procedure.
Understanding Articular-Sided and Bursal-Sided tears
Most rotator cuff tears occur within the supraspinatus tendon. However, they can develop as articular-sided or bursal-sided tears.
Articular-sided tears tend to be the most common and they are common in athletes who participate in overhead sports. They run into the rotator cuff from the articular side, typically resulting from trauma.
Bursal-sided tears are less common, and they mostly result from subacromial impingement. They run into the rotator cuff from the bursal side and tend to occur in older age. The reason these tears are less common is because the bursal side is a lot stronger than the articular side. It contains greater tensile strength which makes it more difficult to tear.
What factors can affect the surgical outcome?
The new study shows that the location of the tear does not impact the outcome of surgery. However, there are some factors which can affect how well the tear heals. These include:
- The size of the tear
- Patient age
- Lifestyle factors such as smoking
- The severity of the tear
These are some of the main factors which could determine how well the shoulder heals after surgical repair. Your London Shoulder Specialist surgeon will be able to discuss the risks with you prior to the procedure.