Arthroscopic subacromial decompression in the treatment of full thickness rotator cuff tears: a 3- to 6-year follow-up.

Authors: Zvijac JE, Levy HJ, Lemak LJ.

References: Arthroscopy. 1994 Oct;10(5):518-23.

Arthroscopic subacromial decompression has become an accepted treatment for patients with impingement syndrome; however, its use for full thickness rotator cuff tears continues to be controversial. The purpose of this study is to determine if the results of arthroscopic subacromial decompression alone for full thickness rotator cuff tears deteriorate at long-term follow-up. We reevaluated all 25 patients with full thickness rotator cuff tears who underwent arthroscopic subacromial decompression from our original study group. Based on the University of California at Los Angeles shoulder rating, 68% of patients were rated as excellent or good at the present mean follow-up of 45.8 months (range 36-72 months). This represents a significant decrease from our initial report of 84% satisfactory results at a mean follow-up of 24.6 months. There was a significant decrease in ratings with regard to pain and function; however, no significant deterioration was noted with regard to motion and strength. Two additional patients required open rotator cuff repair since the time of initial follow-up for a total of six. Large and massive rotator cuff tears fared worse over time as compared with small and moderate size tears. Although 1- to 3-year results of arthroscopic subacromial decompression and rotator cuff debridement were favorable, the long-term follow-up demonstrates deterioration of results. We therefore cannot support the use of decompression and debridement alone in the treatment of repairable full thickness rotator cuff tears.


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