Results of early operative treatment of rotator cuff tears with acute symptoms

J Shoulder Elbow Surg. 2006 Mar-Apr;15(2):148-53. doi: 10.1016/j.jse.2005.07.006.


The distinction among an acute tear, acute symptoms of a chronic tear, or the acute extension of an existing chronic tear is very difficult, if not impossible, to make. In general, operative treatment of lesions with a sudden onset has yielded favorable results in many studies. However, the timing of the operation for tears with an acute onset of symptoms is still a very controversial issue, as are the treatment options for chronic tears with acute symptoms. This study analyzes the follow-up results of early operative treatment of rotator cuff tears with an acute onset of symptoms, regardless of tear type. Twenty-nine patients with a sudden onset of symptoms and significant impairment of shoulder function had a full-thickness rotator cuff tear. The patients were operated on within 3 weeks from the beginning of the symptoms. Twenty-six patients underwent follow-up. The results were evaluated by use of the UCLA shoulder rating scale. At follow-up, 22 patients (85%) had no pain and 21 (81%) had returned to normal activities and had normal shoulder function. Active forward flexion averaged 51 degrees preoperatively and 167 degrees at follow-up. After repair of the tear, shoulder strength was normal in 22 of 26 shoulders (85%); 3 patients had fair strength, all after repair of a massive tear. Of the patients, 25 (96%) were satisfied with the result. The overall result was excellent in 20 patients (77%), good in 4 (15%), fair in 1 (4%), and poor in 1 (4%). Early operative treatment appears to be better for rotator cuff tears with a sudden onset of symptoms and poor function to achieve maximal return of shoulder function. With time, the tear may enlarge, and the cuff may lose its elasticity, thus making the late surgical repair more difficult or even impossible.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Range of Motion, Articular
  • Recovery of Function
  • Rotator Cuff / surgery*
  • Rotator Cuff Injuries*
  • Rupture
  • Shoulder Joint / physiopathology
  • Shoulder Pain / etiology
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome