Large study of arthroscopic rotator cuff repair reveals some surprises
Feb 19, 2011 - 5:00:00 AM
Arthroscopic rotator cuff repair is highly effective and provides durable results five years after surgery, according to a large, prospective study by Hospital for Special Surgery investigators. The study also surprisingly revealed that the rotator cuff has the ability to heal even when early imaging studies have found a defect at the site of repair. The research will be presented at the upcoming American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons (ASES) 2011 Specialty Day meeting, to be held Feb. 19 in San Diego, Calif., following the annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
Our study demonstrates that arthroscopic rotator cuff repair results remain excellent when followed over five years, and we found that some tendons that were incompletely healed at two years appeared to heal fully by five years, suggesting that rather than deteriorating over time, results may in fact improve over time, said David Altchek, M.D., attending orthopedic surgeon and co-chief in the Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service at Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) in New York, who was involved with the study.
These days, arthroscopy is the standard of care for repairing rotator cuffs. Most patients who have this procedure have excellent clinical results, but surprisingly the results sometimes don't correlate to whether the rotator cuff is healed or not. When your rotator cuff is torn, you attribute all your pain and dysfunction to your torn rotator cuff, then you have it fixed and you feel better, but sometimes when you take an ultrasound or an MRI, the rotator cuff looks exactly like it did before you had the surgery, said Lawrence Gulotta, M.D., who led the study and is a sports medicine and shoulder surgeon at HSS. Before this study, we thought that once a rotator cuff had re-torn or failed to heal following surgery, it had no capacity to heal in the future. Now we know that the rotator cuff does have the capacity to heal itself, even if early radiographic studies showed there was a defect at the repair site.
At one year following surgery, ultrasound results showed that 64.3 percent of patients had a healed rotator cuff. This percentage went up to 75.4 percent at two years and 81.2 percent at five years.
The study involved 193 patients who underwent arthroscopic rotator cuff repair at HSS and then were evaluated annually for five years. In 2003, HSS established the Arthroscopic Rotator Cuff Registry to prospectively evaluate the functional and radiographic outcomes of patients undergoing this procedure and this study comes from that registry. When the study was started, arthroscopic rotator cuff repairs were really just coming onto the scene, so the HSS Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service decided to start a prospective study to evaluate the outcomes of them, Dr. Gulotta said.
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