Arthroscopic Repair of Partial-Thickness and Small Full-Thickness Rotator Cuff Tears: Tendon Quality as a Prognostic Factor for Repair Integrity.

American Journal of Sports Medicine

PubMedID: 25535097

Chung SW, Kim JY, Yoon JP, Lyu SH, Rhee SM, Oh SB. Arthroscopic Repair of Partial-Thickness and Small Full-Thickness Rotator Cuff Tears: Tendon Quality as a Prognostic Factor for Repair Integrity. Am J Sports Med. 2015;43(3):588-96.
BACKGROUND
The healing failure rate is high for partial-thickness or small full-thickness rotator cuff tears.

PURPOSE
To retrospectively evaluate and compare outcomes after arthroscopic repair of high-grade partial-thickness and small full-thickness rotator cuff tears and factors affecting rotator cuff healing.

STUDY DESIGN
Cohort study; Level of evidence, 3.

METHODS
Included in the study were 55 consecutive patients (mean age, 57.9 ± 7.2 years) who underwent arthroscopic repair for high-grade partial-thickness (n = 34) and small full-thickness (n = 21) rotator cuff tears. The study patients also underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) preoperatively and computed tomography arthrography (CTA) at least 6 months postoperatively, and their functional outcomes were evaluated preoperatively and at the last follow-up (>24 months). All partial-thickness tears were repaired after being converted to full-thickness tears; thus, the repair process was almost the same as for small full-thickness tears. The tendinosis of the torn tendon was graded from the MRI images using a 4-point scale, and the reliabilities were assessed. The outcomes between high-grade partial-thickness tears that were converted to small full-thickness tears and initially small full-thickness tears were compared, and factors affecting outcomes were evaluated.

RESULTS
The inter- and intraobserver reliabilities of the tendinosis grade were good (intraclass correlation coefficient, 0.706 and 0.777, respectively). Failure to heal as determined by CTA was observed in 12 patients with a high-grade partial-thickness tear (35.3%; complete failure in 4 and partial failure in 8) and in 3 patients with a small full-thickness tear (14.3%; complete failure in 1 and partial failure in 2). The patients with high-grade partial-thickness rotator cuff tears showed a higher tendinosis grade than did those with small full-thickness tears (P = .014), and the severity of the tendinosis was related to the failure to heal (P = .037). Tears with a higher tendinosis grade showed a 7.64-times higher failure rate (95% CI, 1.43-36.04) than did those with a lower tendinosis grade (P = .013). All functional outcome scores improved after surgery (all P < .001); however, there was no difference between groups.

CONCLUSION
The high-grade partial-thickness rotator cuff tears showed more severe tendinosis compared with the small full-thickness tears in this study. Contrary to previous impressions that tear size or fatty infiltration is the factor that most influences healing, tendinosis severity assessed by preoperative MRI was the only factor associated with failure to heal, given the numbers available for analysis, in patients with partial-thickness and small full-thickness rotator cuff tears. Surgeons should pay more attention to tendon quality during repair surgery or rehabilitation in smaller rotator cuff tears, especially in high-grade partial-thickness tears with severe tendinosis.