Little is known about the outcomes after repair of partial-thickness rotator cuff tears. The aim of this study was to assess the outcome after repair of partial-thickness rotator cuff tears compared with full-thickness tears. Our hypothesis was that repair of partial-thickness tears leads to more shoulder stiffness but fewer retears compared with repair of full-thickness tears.Methods:
A group of 105 consecutive patients who had a full-thickness tear measuring <3 cm2 was compared with a group of sixty-four patients who had a partial-thickness tear. All tears were repaired with use of a knotless single-row arthroscopic repair. The American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons (ASES) score and standardized patient and examiner-determined outcomes were obtained preoperatively and at six, twelve, and twenty-four weeks and at two years after surgery. Rotator cuff integrity was determined by ultrasound examination at six months and two years after surgery.Results:
Examiner-determined postoperative stiffness at six weeks was common in both groups (50% of those with a partial-thickness tear and 47% of those with a full-thickness tear) but was decreased compared with preoperative findings in both groups to 21% and 19%, respectively, at three months and to 15% and 14% at six months. The ultrasound-determined retear rate was small (5% in the partial-thickness group and 10% in the full-thickness group) at six months, but increased to 10% and 20%, respectively, at twenty-four months. The ASES score, patient-determined overall shoulder function, and all pain scores were superior to preoperative scores at six months (p < 0.001) and at twenty-four months (p < 0.001) in both groups.Conclusions:
Arthroscopic repair of partial-thickness and small and medium-sized full-thickness rotator cuff tears was associated with excellent medium-term clinical outcomes with low retear rates. The data did not support our hypothesis: the differences in retear rate and postoperative shoulder stiffness rate found between the two groups did not reach significance.Level of Evidence:
Prognostic Level II. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.