Arthroscopic debridement of full-thickness tears of the rotator cuff: a retrospective multicenter study of 283 cases with 3-year follow-up

Authors: Thomazeau H, Gleyze P, Frank A, Levigne C, Walch G, Devallet P.

References: Rev Chir Orthop Reparatrice Appar Mot. 2000 Apr;86(2):136-42.

PURPOSE OF THE STUDY: The purpose of this study was to assess clinical and radiological course of full-thickness rotator cuff tears treated by arthroscopic debridement and to discuss surgical indications according to patient demands and anatomical lesions. MATERIAL AND METHODS: This retrospective and multicentric study included patients with a minimal 3 years follow-up. The coronal extent of the supraspinatus tear was described as distal, intermediate or retracted. The sagittal extent to the infraspinatus and/or subscapularis and rotator interval was detailed. All patients were evaluated pre and post-operatively using Constant score and radiological A-P view for sub-acromial space measurement. In order to assess the influence of age, anatomical extent of the tear and follow-up, results were analyzed for 4 groups of patients according to their age: group I (19 cases less than 50 years), group II (88 cases from 51 to 60 years), group III (58 cases from 61 to 65 years) and group IV (118 cases over 65 years). Results were finally evaluated according the arthroscopic procedure (isolated acromioplasty and biceps tenotomy, or association of both). RESULTS: 283 patients, aged 63.1 years (range 32 to 82) entered this study. A complete antero-posterior tear of the supra-spinatus tendon was noticed in 93.2 p. 100 of cases. The tear extended to the infraspinatus tendon in 57.3 p. 100, and to the subscapularis tendon in 29 p. 100 of cases. The long head of the biceps was involved in 73 p. 100 of cases. 218 acromioplasties and 116 biceps tenotomies were performed. The 2 procedures were combined in nearly 25 p. 100 of cases. At final revision (mean follow-up of 4.7 years), 98 patients (34.6 p. 100) were very satisfied, 122 (43.1 p. 100) satisfied, 43 (15.2 p. 100) moderatly satisfied and 20 (7.1 p. 100) were disappointed. The average Constant score increased from 42.4 to 67.6 points. The radiological study showed a 1 mm narrowing of the sub-acromial space. Objective results were surprisingly good for group I at a 5.4 years follow-up but dropped from group II to group IV, mainly in relation with the extent of the tear. A deleterious effect of the isolated biceps tenotomy was demonstrated in case of subacromial space superior to 7 mm. Inversely after this procedure patients with a narrowed space improved. DISCUSSION: Even if traditional bias of retrospective and mullticentric study could not be avoided, the large number of patients and long follow-up of this study are superior to most of the published papers. The extent of the supraspinatus tear seems to progress during the 50-60 years decade. Objective results appeared to be much more related to the anatomical lesions than to the arthroscopic procedure. CONCLUSION: This series did not demonstrate a secondary clinical or radiological deterioration after an endoscopic treatment without repair of full-tickness rotator cuff tears. Subacromial decompression and/or biceps tenotomy indications depend on age and extension of the tear.


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