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Evaluation of in Vivo Rotator Cuff Muscle Function After Acute and Chronic Detachment of the Supraspinatus TendonAn Experimental Study in an Animal Model
Sandeep Mannava, MD1; Johannes F. Plate, MD1; Patrick W. Whitlock, MD, PhD1; Michael F. Callahan, PhD1; Thorsten M. Seyler, MD1; L. Andrew Koman, MD1; Thomas L. Smith, PhD1; Christopher J. Tuohy, MD1
1 Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Medical Center Boulevard, Winston-Salem, NC 27157-1070. E-mail address for S. Mannava: smannava@wakehealth.edu
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Disclosure: None of the authors received payments or services, either directly or indirectly (i.e., via his or her institution), from a third party in support of any aspect of this work. One or more of the authors, or his or her institution, has had a financial relationship, in the thirty-six months prior to submission of this work, with an entity in the biomedical arena that could be perceived to influence or have the potential to influence what is written in this work. No author has had any other relationships, or has engaged in any other activities, that could be perceived to influence or have the potential to influence what is written in this work. The complete Disclosures of Potential Conflicts of Interest submitted by authors are always provided with the online version of the article.

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Investigation performed at the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, North Carolina
A commentary by Lawrence V. Gulotta, MD, is linked to the online version of this article at jbjs.org.

Copyright © 2011 by The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc.
J Bone Joint Surg Am, 2011 Sep 21;93(18):1702-1711. doi: 10.2106/JBJS.J.00184
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Surgical repair of large chronic rotator cuff tears can be technically demanding because it requires manipulation of a muscle-tendon unit that is scarred, retracted, and stiffer than normal, all of which contribute to increased tension at the repair site. The purpose of the present study was to characterize the in vivo rotator cuff muscle-tendon unit function after acute and chronic injury at surgically relevant preload tensions.


Sixty-two Sprague-Dawley rats were divided into a healthy, uninjured (control) group (n = 22), an acute injury group (n = 20), and a chronic injury group (n = 20) and underwent in vivo muscle force testing and electromyographic testing of the supraspinatus muscle-tendon unit at various preload tensions.


Preload tension affected the maximum supraspinatus muscle contractile force in all groups (p < 0.05). At the peak tension required to repair an acute tear, there was a 28% to 30% reduction in maximum tetanic contraction amplitude in all groups (p < 0.05). At the peak tension required to repair a chronic tear, there was a 40% to 53% reduction in maximal tetanic contraction amplitude in all groups (p < 0.05). The uninjured (control) group showed increased muscle endurance (p < 0.05) in comparison with the acute injury and chronic injury groups at all preload tensions. The chronic injury group showed reduced compound motor action potential amplitude (p < 0.05).


Both the acute and chronic injury groups demonstrated functional impairment related to increasing preload tensions. Higher repair tensions, associated with the chronic injury setting, resulted in greater functional impairment. The present study also demonstrates an association between increased time from rotator cuff tendon injury and impaired in vivo rotator cuff muscle electromyographic findings.

Clinical Relevance: 

The findings of the present study suggest that earlier surgical intervention for the repair of rotator cuff tears, in which a lower repair tension is required, may lead to improved functional outcomes.

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    These activities have been planned and implemented in accordance with the Essential Areas and policies of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) through the joint sponsorship of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons is accredited by the ACCME to provide continuing medical education for physicians.
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