Background: Retears after rotator cuff repairs occur relatively frequently and may compromise the functional result. The goal of this study was to analyze the mechanical properties following arthroscopic techniques for rotator cuff repair and to evaluate possible alternative techniques.
Methods: In the first part, five different bone anchors (the Revo screw; Mitek Rotator Cuff anchor, 5.0-mm Statak, PANALOK RC absorbable anchor, and 5.0-mm Bio-Statak) were tested in vitro under cyclic loading on five pairs of cadaveric shoulders. Then five types of arthroscopic tendon suturing instruments were tested on rotator cuff tendons. Finally, the arthroscopically performed mattress and modified Mason-Allen stitches, fixed with either the Revo screw or the Bio-Statak, were evaluated on ten pairs of human cadaveric shoulders.
Results: The holding strengths of the various anchors were similar, ranging from 130 to 180 N, and approximated the holding strength of knotted number-2 suture materials. The fixation of the tested anchors yielded comparable values of stiffness except for one anchor, which showed significantly greater subsidence under cyclic load (p = 0.003). All tested, commercially available arthroscopic suturing devices were unsuitable for performing a modified Mason-Allen stitch on normal supraspinatus tendons. Modification of a commercially available suture punch with a longer needle allowed us to consistently perform a modified Mason-Allen stitch. The modified Mason-Allen stitch, which has shown favorable mechanical properties in open repairs of the rotator cuff, was not found to be stronger than the mattress stitch when performed arthroscopically and used with bone anchors. When the modified Mason-Allen stitch was fixed to one anchor, it was even weaker than a mattress stitch repaired with another anchor (168 versus 228 N). Unequal loading of the two suture branches due to the more rigid modified Mason-Allen stitch may be the reason for this difference.
Conclusions: Arthroscopic techniques for rotator cuff repair with use of the mattress stitch and bone anchors allow for a relatively solid fixation. The holding strength is not improved with use of the modified Mason-Allen stitch. Although a direct comparison with previous in vitro studies is not possible, the holding strength of open fixation techniques seems to be stronger. If rotator cuffs are subjected to high postoperative loading, open repair might be preferred to reduce the risk of a retear, until stronger arthroscopic fixation techniques are developed.