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Rotator cuff surgery provides long lasting results

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Rotator cuff surgery

Arthroscopic surgery to repair rotator cuff damage can provide long lasting results, seen five years after surgery. Researchers say the shoulder cuff has the ability to repair even when defects are seen on imaging studies just after surgery.

Surgery can completely heal rotator cuff damage

According to the American Academy of Orthopedic surgeons, rotator cuff injuries primarily happen from overuse that happens over years. Trauma and sports can lead to injuries in younger adults. Over age 40, damage to the muscles and tendons that hold the shoulder in place are more prevalent. New findings show surgery using minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery can lead to complete healing of rotator cuff injuries.

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 says, “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.”

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The findings are significant because imaging studies show rotator cuff surgery may not immediately change the way damage appears. Lawrence Gulotta, M.D., who led the study and is a sports medicine and shoulder surgeon at HSS explains, even when patients feel better from less pain and more shoulder movement "the rotator cuff looks exactly like it did before you had the surgery", leading to the belief it would not heal in the future.

For the study, 193 patients who underwent arthroscopic rotator cuff repair were followed for five years. After one year, 64.3 percent of patients had a healed rotator cuff and at five years, the percentage was 81.2 percent. When the study, began arthroscopic surgery to repair torn rotator cuffs was in the early stages.

Dr. Gulotta says the findings are the result of the largest prospective study to date showing arthroscopic rotator cuff repair surgery can have enduring results that improve over time. In the study, improvements were found between the first and second year after surgery, and remained the same between year 2 and five. There were minor decreases in shoulder range of motion two years after surgery that the researchers say did not affect daily function and they will continue to monitor. You can watch a video of a rotator cuff surgery repair at the HSS website.

Hospital for Special Surgery