Partial Thickness Cuff Tears

A partial thickness rotator cuff tear is an incomplete tear of the rotator cuff.

These may be traumatic in athletes (caused by an injury) and are known as PASTA lesions
However, the more common partial thickness tears are seen in people over the age of 50 and may be chronic or related to minor trauma, such as a simple fall.

Partial thickness cuff tears can be found incidentally on MRI scanning and may not be the source of pain. An experienced clinician is able to correlate the clinical findings with the scan results and determine this. These tears do not need any treatment directly themselves.

However, tears that do cause pain and disability do need treatment. The type of treatment depends on how deep the tear is into the tendon.

Tears that don't involve a true detachment of the tendon from the bone involve less than 50% of the tendon thickness. These are treated with a 'debridement'. This means that the tear is 'tidied up' and smoothed down to help stimulate the natural healing process. This is done by keyhole surgery (arthroscopy).
The image below shows the area of cuff tear and a partial tear before and after debridement:

Tears larger than 50% of the tendon thickness expose the bony attachment area of the rotator cuff (footprint area). These require re-attachment of the tendon to the bone, known as a rotator cuff repair. This can be done by keyhole or open surgery. Below shows the area of cuff tear and two >50% cuff tears:

For more patient information on the surgical procedure click here

Medical professionals click here

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