Purpose: To investigate the behavior of rotator cuff tears treated with conventional repair technique with the aid of autologous bone marrow mononuclear cells (BMMC).
Methods: Fourteen consecutive patients (9 women, 5 men, mean age of 59.2 years) with complete rotator cuff tears (mean preoperative UCLA score of 12 ± 3.0) were fixed by transosseous stitches through mini-open incision, with subsequent injection of BMMC into the tendon borders, obtained from the iliac crest just prior to surgery. Magnetic resonance images (MRI) were acquired before and after surgery and evaluated by two musculoskeletal radiologists regarding new postoperative findings of patients treated with BMMC.
Results: After a minimum 12-month follow-up period, the UCLA score increased from 12 ± 3.0 to 31 ± 3.2. Clinical findings remained unaltered in the following year in all but one patient (13/14). MRI analysis after a 12-month follow-up period demonstrated tendon integrity in all cases (14/14), presence of low-signal intensity areas along the supraspinatus tendon and distal muscle belly in 8 cases (8/14), and high-intensity blooming small round artifact at the bursal and tendon topography in 11 cases (11/14). Six patients (6/14) showed formation of a high-signal intensity zone at the critical zone. Clinical findings remained unaltered in the following year in all but one patient, who relapsed into loss of strength and pain, being considered a bad result.
Conclusion: Implantation of BMMC in rotator cuff sutures appears to be a safe and promising alternative to other biological approaches currently used to enhance tissue quality in affected tendons.