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Arthroscopic treatment of full-thickness rotator cuff tears: 2- to 7- year follow-up study

Authors: H Ellman, SP Kay, M Wirth

References: Arthroscopy. April 1993. 9(2): 195-200

Abstract
This study analyzes the midterm follow-up results of 40 full-thickness rotator cuff tears treated by arthroscopic subacromial decompression and debridement. Patients were selected for this prospective study based on a variety of factors, including physiologic age, handedness, activity level in occupation or avocation, and preoperative estimate of repairability. Patients were divided into three groups based on the size of the tear as measured during surgery; results were evaluated on the UCLA shoulder rating scale. This study emphasizes the importance of patient selection when applying arthroscopic treatment for full- thickness rotator cuff tears. Small (0-2 cm) tears (n = 10) in older individuals not involved in strenuous activities did well (90% satisfactory). Patients with larger (2-4 cm) repairable tears (n = 8) did poorly (50% satisfactory) in comparison with our previous study of the results of open repair (84% satisfactory). Arthroscopic treatment in patients with massive, irreparable tears (n = 22) did not restore lost strength or range of motion, but there was significant pain relief, and 86% were satisfied with the results on a limited-goals basis. The study concludes that with proper patient selection, arthroscopic treatment has a valuable, but limited, role in the treatment of full-thickness rotator cuff tears.

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