Arthroscopic subscapularis tendon repair: Technique and preliminary results

Arthroscopy. May-Jun 2002;18(5):454-63. doi: 10.1053/jars.2002.30648.


Purpose: Our objective was to evaluate the preliminary results of 25 consecutive arthroscopic subscapularis tendon repairs.

Type of study: Case series.

Methods: All 25 shoulders had longer than 3 months follow-up, with an average of 10.7 months (range, 3 to 48 months). The average age was 60.7 years (range, 41 to 78 years). The average time from onset of symptoms to surgery was 18.9 months (range, 1 to 72 months). The shoulders were evaluated using a modified UCLA score, Napoleon test, lift-off test, radiographs, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Indications for surgery included clinical and/or MRI evidence of a rotator cuff tear. An arthroscopic suture anchor technique devised by the senior author (S.S.B.) was used for repair.

Results: UCLA scores increased from a preoperative average of 10.7 to a postoperative average of 30.5 (P <.0001). By UCLA criteria, excellent and good results were obtained in 92% of patients, with 1 fair and 1 poor result. Forward flexion increased from an average 96.3 degrees preoperatively to an average 146.1 degrees postoperatively (P =.0016). Eight of 9 patients with a positive Napoleon test had complete tears of the subscapularis. All 7 patients with a negative Napoleon test had a tear of the upper half only. The lift-off test could not be performed reliably due to pain or restricted motion in 19 of the 25 patients. Eight patients had isolated tears of the subscapularis. The remaining 17 patients had associated rotator cuff tears with an average total tear size of 5 x 8 cm. Ten patients had proximal migration of the humerus preoperatively. Eight of these 10 patients had durable reversal of proximal humeral migration following surgery. These 8 patients improved their overhead function from a preoperative "shoulder shrug" with attempted elevation of the arm to functional overhead use of the arm postoperatively.

Conclusions: (1) The senior author has been able to consistently perform arthroscopic repair of torn subscapularis tendons, with good and excellent results, in 92% of patients. (2) The Napoleon test is useful in predicting not only the presence of a subscapularis tear, but also its general size. (3) Combined tears of the subscapularis, supraspinatus, and infraspinatus tendons are frequently associated with proximal humeral migration and loss of overhead function. Arthroscopic repair of these massive tears can produce durable reversal of proximal humeral migration and restoration of overhead function.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arthroscopy / methods*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Radiography
  • Range of Motion, Articular
  • Rotator Cuff / surgery
  • Rotator Cuff Injuries*
  • Shoulder / physiopathology
  • Shoulder / surgery*
  • Shoulder Injuries*
  • Suture Techniques
  • Tendon Injuries
  • Tendons / diagnostic imaging
  • Tendons / surgery*
  • Treatment Outcome