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Suture Number Determines Strength of Rotator Cuff Repair
Patrick W. Jost, MD1; M. Michael Khair, MD1; Dan X. Chen, MS1; Timothy M. Wright, PhD1; Anne M. Kelly, MD1; Scott A. Rodeo, MD1
1 Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, Hospital for Special Surgery, 535 East 70th Street, New York, NY 10021. E-mail address for P.W. Jost: pwjost@gmail.com
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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 Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, Hospital for Special Surgery, New York, NY

Copyright © 2012 by The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc.
J Bone Joint Surg Am, 2012 Jul 18;94(14):e100 1-7. doi: 10.2106/JBJS.K.00117
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Failure of surgical repair of a rotator cuff tear continues to be a clinical problem. For other tendon repairs, increasing the number of sutures improves both biomechanical performance and clinical outcomes. Several investigators have shown biomechanical advantages of double-row techniques but have used many more sutures than were used with the single-row techniques with which the double-row techniques were compared. The purposes of our study were to establish whether using a greater number of sutures would improve the biomechanical properties of a rotator cuff repair model, and whether using equal numbers of sutures would lead to equivalent results between single and double-row configurations.


Fresh-frozen sheep infraspinatus tendons underwent single-row repair with two, four, or six mattress sutures and double-row repair with use of four mattress sutures. Specimens were pretensioned at 10 N for one minute, then cycled from 10 to 180 N for 200 cycles at 0.2 Hz; this was followed by load to failure. Cyclic gap formation, failure load, and failure type were recorded.


The four-suture single-row and four-suture double-row repairs had similar gap formation during cyclic testing, with no significant differences between them. Cyclic gap formation in the two-suture single-row group was 6.7 and 7.1 mm (97% and 109%) greater than that in the four and six-suture single-row groups after 200 cycles (p < 0.001). The average loads to failure of the two, four, and six-suture single-row groups were 274, 362, and 572 N (p < 0.0001). The average load to failure of the four-suture double-row group was 386 N, which was similar to the value in the four-suture single-row group (p = 0.58).


In an ovine rotator cuff tendon repair model, increasing the number of sutures decreased cyclic gap formation and increased load to failure. Single and double-row repairs are biomechanically equivalent when the number of sutures is kept constant.

Clinical Relevance: 

The results of this study support the use of greater numbers of sutures in rotator cuff repair and disagree with the assertion that double-row repairs are biomechanically superior to single-row repairs.

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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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