Purpose: Differing extents of tendon retraction are found in full-thickness rotator cuff tears. The pathophysiologic context of tendon degeneration and the extent of tendon retraction are unclear. Tendon integrity depends on the extracellular matrix, which is regulated by matrix metalloproteinases (MMP). It is unknown which enzymes play a role in tendon degeneration. The hypotheses are that (1) the expression of MMPs 1, 3, and 9 is altered in the torn rotator cuff when compared with healthy tendon samples; and (2) that there is a relationship between MMP expression and the extent of tendon retraction in the torn cuff.
Methods: Rotator cuff tendon samples of 33 patients with full-thickness rotator cuff tears (Bateman grade III) were harvested during reconstructive surgery. Samples were dehydrated and paraffin-embedded. Immunohistologic determination of MMP 1, 3, and 9 expression was performed by staining sample slices with MMP antibody. The extent of tendon retraction was determined intraoperatively according to Patte's classification and patients were assigned to 4 groups (control group, and by tendon retraction grade Patte I-III). The control group consisted of six healthy tendon samples.
Results: Expression of MMPs 1 and 9 was significantly higher in torn cuff samples than in healthy tendons whereas MMP 3 expression was significantly decreased (P < 0.05). MMP 9 expression significantly increased with rising extent of tendon retraction in the torn cuff (P < 0.05). No significant association was found between expression of MMPs 1 and 3 and the rising extent of tendon retraction by Patte's classification.
Conclusion: Elevated expression of MMPs 1 and 9 as well as decreased MMP 3 expression can be detected in torn rotator cuff tendon tissue. There is a significant association between the extent of tendon retraction and MMP 9 expression. The results of this study give evidence that early surgical treatment of small and partial-thickness rotator cuff tears is required.