Background: Latissimus dorsi tendon transfer is a well-established method for the treatment of massive irreparable posterosuperior defects of the rotator cuff. Subsequent rupture of the transferred tendon may contribute to the rate of failure of the index procedure. We hypothesized that modification of our technique of tendon harvesting would lead to greater fixation stability and a reduced failure rate.
Methods: Forty-two patients (mean age, fifty-eight years) with a massive irreparable posterosuperior tear of the rotator cuff were managed with a latissimus dorsi tendon transfer. Sharp separation of the latissimus tendon from the humerus was performed in twenty-two patients (Group A), whereas the tendon harvest was carried out with a modified technique that involved removal of some bone along with the tendon at the humeral insertion in a subsequent group of twenty patients (Group B). The mean duration of follow-up was forty-seven months. Outcome measures included the Constant and American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons (ASES) scores and a patient subjective satisfaction scale. Standard radiographs were made to determine the stage of osteoarthritis and proximal migration of the humeral head, and magnetic resonance imaging was performed to assess the integrity of the transferred muscle.
Results: In Group A, the mean Constant score improved from 43.4 preoperatively to 64.8 points at the time of follow-up and the mean ASES score improved from 49.3 to 69.6 points (p < 0.05). In Group B, the mean Constant score increased from 40.2 to 74.2 points and the mean ASES score, from 47.2 to 77.1 points (p < 0.05). The Constant pain score improved from 5.6 to 11.9 points in Group A and from 5.2 to 13.8 points in Group B. The results in Group B were significantly superior to those in Group A (p < 0.05). Magnetic resonance imaging revealed complete rupture at the tendon insertion with tendon retraction in four patients in Group A and none in Group B. The final outcome was rated as poor in 27% of the patients in Group A and in 10% in Group B.
Conclusions: Latissimus dorsi tendon transfer achieves satisfactory clinical results in most patients who have a massive irreparable posterosuperior tear of the rotator cuff. Harvesting the tendon along with a small piece of bone enables direct bone-to-bone transosseous fixation, resulting in better tendon integrity and clinical results.
Level of Evidence: Therapeutic Level III. See Instructions to Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.